The SIX KEYS to sustaining your practice through the COVID-19 pandemic are online payments, Telehealth, automation tools, cyber protection, financial aid, and a good patient experience.
When Coronavirus first started to impact medical practices across the country, providers quickly put temporary solutions in place to ensure they were still able to see patients safely. As the pandemic endured, some of these “temporary” solutions became a “normal” part of doing business. While we can’t predict exactly how COVID-19 will affect us in the future, one thing is becoming clearer every day: Some of the changes that have been made the past few months will shape how healthcare is managed after the global health crisis is over.
So, it’s time to start thinking long-term with your COVID-19 strategy. Here are six ‘keys’ for sustaining your practice right now that will continue to be important after the pandemic is over.
1. ONLINE PAYMENTS
Most businesses already process a good amount of their payments online (including EZClaim), but healthcare has been slow to adapt in this area. Practices no longer have the luxury of taking their time adopting digital payment options. It’s time to give patients what they’ve been wanting for years: the ability to pay their bills online.
Because the pandemic is still with us, contactless payments have surged. No-touch payments are an easy way to reduce the spread of germs, and most people already have the tools they need to complete these types of payments: phones, computers, and credit cards.
Online payments are encouraged even when you’re meeting patients in the office. EZClaim customers can easily facilitate this with LinkPay. The process is easy and can be done once an appointment is made.
Here’s LinkPay in three simple steps:
1) Create customized payment link with required amount
2) Email or text the link to patient before their visit
3) Patient pays the required amount, which is immediately confirmed and processed
COVID-19 demanded contactless payments for safety, but now patients now expect them for convenience. Medical practices will need online payments if they are to stay relevant in the future.
Telehealth threw providers a lifeline when patients stopped coming into the office. The government acted quickly to relax Telehealth reimbursement policies so providers would be paid just as much for a Telehealth visit as they would for an in-office visit.
Congress is hoping to make these changes permanent. Whether they succeed or not, plan on keeping Telehealth as an option for your patients. Because Telehealth is not just useful during a pandemic, it’s great during normal life, too. Not all visits require an in-person encounter, and patients of all ages can benefit from the convenience of not having to physically leave their homes to get the medical care they need.
Patients have become used to having Telehealth as an option. Keeping it as an option going forward will set you apart from other practices.
3. AUTOMATION TOOLS
Chances are you are working with fewer people than normal. So, with less people to handle your billing and payments, your best option is to automate whatever you can.
This could mean setting up AutoPay for patients you see regularly, so they don’t have to manually pay their bill every time. It could also mean setting up a payment plan, in which a fixed amount will be paid automatically every month until the balance is paid off. It could also mean outsourcing your collections.
Automation doesn’t mean you lose control. Rather, it gives your staff more time to manage other essential operations. EZClaim customers have all of these automation options available to them through BillFlash.
4. CYBER PROTECTION
With digital tools becoming more prevalent, it is more important than ever to make sure your systems are protected. Hackers are out in full force right now, so it is imperative that you have proper malware and anti-virus software in place to protect your practice, your patients, and your employees. Do your homework on the tech companies you work with, too. Protecting your practice and your patients should be a top priority!
Of course, your staff will need to be up-to-date on HIPAA protocols, as well. Make sure you are doing everything you need to to protect patient privacy online as well as offline.
5. FINANCIAL AID
Some practices are struggling financially and may need government aid to get them through the current crisis. Keep an eye on government funds that are available and stay informed on their different requirements.
If you haven’t already, consider applying for a line of credit. This is standard operating procedure—even during normal times—and can help protect you from further financial disruptions in the future. No one knows how long this pandemic will last, so having a line of credit to fall back on during the coming months and years could be a game changer for your practice.
6. A GOOD PATIENT EXPERIENCE
Above all, you need happy patients. That is true whether we are in a recession or not. Happy patients are more likely to pay their bills, more likely to return for future care, and more likely to recommend you to family and friends.
So, as you make some of the changes you made during the pandemic permanent, make sure you are still doing the little things to ensure a positive patient experience. These include:
• Keep wait times short
• Maintain eye contact during visits to assure patients that you care
• Be transparent about payment expectations and insurance, as well as what you’re doing to keep patients and staff safe
• Allow patients to pay using their preferred payment method
• Offer payment plans in lieu of paying large bills in one lump sum
A positive patient experience will be key in bringing your patients back to the office as the global health crisis continues.
NexTrust from BillFlash offers a variety of innovative billing and payments solutions for EZClaim customers. Visit billflash.com or e-mail them at Sales@BillFlash.com to learn more about how you can get paid more, get paid faster, and ensure you have the online tools you need to thrive during the pandemic.
For details and features about EZClaim’s medical billing software, or the other partners they have integrated into their billing solution, visit their website.
[ Written by Kathy Scott, Marketing Manager at BillFlash and NexTrust, Inc. ]
There are five things to consider as you reopen your medical office: Reevaluate your budget; Get your staff’s buy-in; How to actively bring patients back into the office; Continuing to use Telemedicine and other online tools; and be flexible.
As the curve flattens and restrictions around the country loosen up, medical practices are slowly reopening their doors for non-essential services. But reopening doesn’t mean business will resume as usual. Every industry is making changes as we navigate a “new normal.”
Many of those changes center on social distancing guidelines, but there are other matters to consider as well. Here are some details about the strategies to keep in mind as you reopen.
Reevaluate Your Budget
Government restrictions may be lifting, but medical practices are not going to bounce back immediately. Any financial goals you had in place for 2020 likely won’t be met this year.
Some budgetary adjustments will be necessary. Here are just a few ideas:
- Check in with vendors, landlords, and creditors to discuss any accommodations they may have for cash-flow disruptions
- Consider delaying payment of bonuses and other discretionary payments
- Seek aid from government economic relief packages and loans for small businesses and front-line workers. Stay informed on what your options are, as changes are ongoing.
This goes without saying, but make sure you’re up to date on patient billing and payments, too, including telemedicine visits. If you have patients who need extra time to pay their bills, EZClaim customers can set up a payment plan for them using BillFlash PlanPay.
Get Your Staff’s Buy-In
Before you start bringing patients back in, your entire medical staff needs to understand your new policies and be on board with enforcing them. They need to be reassured that their safety is a top priority, as well.
It’s been a difficult few months for front-line healthcare workers, and will continue to be stressful in the months going forward. Do what you can to acknowledge their hard work and dedication.
Actively Bring Patients Back to the Office
Some people are eager to get out of their homes and into public spaces again, while others plan to shelter in place a while longer. Either way, your patients aren’t going to return in droves. Many are less comfortable going back to a doctor’s office, so be proactive about making your patients feel safe enough to return.
Americans have become experts on how viruses spread over the past few months, so anything you’re doing to clean and sanitize your office should be visible. Affixing physical distancing floor markers, procuring enough PPE for your staff, and installing hand sanitizer stations is a good start. Show your patients what you’re doing to protect them; simply telling them what you’re doing when they aren’t around won’t be enough.
As you communicate your new policies to patients, be aware that they may be feeling overwhelmed. Be transparent and connect with them on a personal level. Don’t be afraid to show your human side; otherwise, your office will be just another place with a long list of rules to follow.
Keep Using Telemedicine and Other Online Tools
The technology that got you through stay-at-home orders can continue to support you long term. Telehealth isn’t going away. Plus, patients will still want contactless payment options.
Evaluate what has worked over the last few months and incorporate them as part of your new normal.
For example, you may want to have a plan in place regarding which patients get priority with Telehealth. At-risk individuals will still need to stay home as much as possible, so make sure Telehealth will still be an option for them.
Another tool that has been valuable during the pandemic is contactless payments. COVID-19 has changed the way people are paying—for the good. They want the option to pay their bills online, or directly from their mobile devices. Some patients will even consider switching providers if another practice offers them online payment options their current provider doesn’t have.
EZClaim easily accommodates a variety of payment preferences with its BillFlash integration, from online SelfPay to sending pre-visit charges for telemedicine visits (LinkPay). Sign up for a demo here. You can try BillFlash, at no cost, for 30 days.
Local outbreaks may still happen. Many households have lost income. Patients have different preferences and needs regarding where an encounter happens and how they pay.
Things are still changing by the week. As much as we all want a new, consistent normal, we need to be prepared to continue to make adjustments as needed. Ultimately, it is your patients and your practice’s financial health that will benefit from your ability to adjust with the times.
BillFlash, a fully integrated component and trusted partner of EZClaim, offers a variety of revenue cycle management services that have served EZClaim customers well for many years, as well as through the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information or to see a demo, contact BillFlash at 435-940-9123, email them at GetPaid@BillFlash.com, or visit their website at BillFlash.com.
For detailed product features or general information about EZClaim, you can either schedule a one-on-one consultation with our sales team, view a recorded demo, or download a FREE 30-day trial right now.
For general information about EZClaim, visit our website at ezclaim.com/
Medical billing managing collections during COVID-19 will be different than it was in the past. It has already changed a lot about how medical practices operate, and in a short amount of time. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that practices need to get paid in order to continue operating. This includes sending patients to collections when necessary.
Managing late or unpaid bills during economic uncertainty may require a different approach than you’re used to. Before you send patients to collections, make sure you take these steps first.
- Be upfront about payment expectations from the beginning
- You should already have a strategy in place regarding informing patients how much they owe for services. Stick to it. Many people are hoping for leeway on certain bills due to the economic impact of COVID-19, but gently remind your patients that for essential healthcare services to continue, practices need to keep revenue flowing, and that means billing will continue as usual.
- Set up payment plans
- If a patient is unable to pay a bill in full, help them set up a payment plan. BillFlash PlanPay lets you set up scheduled, automatic payments to be paid over a set period of time. This is the best option for both you and the patient because:
- The patient has a more manageable bill
- Your practice is more likely to be paid in full
- Setting up a payment plan shows your patients you’re willing to work with them. That’s usually all they need to be assured that you care.
- Send out multiple reminders
- Use whatever resources you have—email, phone, text, mail—to contact patients about balances they owe. Be courteous in your reminders, but firm. Most patients want to pay their medical bills. Often all they need is a simple reminder and an easy way to make the payment.
- BillFlash helps you manage all of this during the pre-collections phase to help ensure you are paid as quickly and completely as possible.
If none of these steps work, then it’s time to get collections involved.
What to Include in a Collections Letter
Include all the facts of the visit. This includes:
- Date of service
- Service provided
- Amount patient owes
- Payment options
Tone of the Letter
The right tone in your letter can do more to ensure payment and a continued relationship with the patient than anything else you include. You need to convey a sense of urgency, but without being overbearing and intimidating.
A few tips to keep in mind:
- Empathize with the patient. Simply saying “We understand you may be experiencing financial difficulties at this time” is more likely to get a response than a curt “final warning” threat.
- Explain why it is important for the patient to pay anyway. Example: Like any other business, our practice relies on revenue to thrive. In order to continue to provide these valuable healthcare services, patients need to pay their bills in full and on time.
- Offer a payment plan. Give patients one more opportunity to pay their bill in smaller chunks over a period of time to avoid having their account sent to collections.
We’re all experiencing difficulties during this global pandemic. The only way to get through it is to work together. Being upfront with patients about payment expectations and being willing to work with patients who have fallen on hard times will help all of us through this global health crisis.
BillFlash Collections Services can help you in managing collections during COVID-19, and simplify and streamline all your other collection processes for you, saving you the headache of exporting, importing, and working with a disconnected agency.
As an EZclaim ‘preferred’ partner, BillFlash is fully integrated with the EZclaim Premier billing application. For more details, view this informational video: https://www.rcm.billflash.com/ezclaim For more information about the EZclaim billing solution, view our website: https://ezclaim.com/