Worry is growing about the staggering costs of healthcare and unexpected medical bills. I read a study, column, or white paper on the topic at least once a month. The statistics just keep climbing. Below is the most recent survey study I’ve come across.
Four out of the top eight financial worry categories are related to healthcare. And in each of the healthcare categories nearly 50% (or more than 50%) of the people surveyed are either ‘very worried’ or ‘somewhat worried’ about the expenses.
As healthcare providers, these statistics might worry you. Providers fear that patients will forego important checkups and treatments. Billing offices worry that patients will pay slowly or not at all. What can be done?
On the provider side, physicians and caregivers can assure the patient that their billing office has policies in place to help them with any outstanding balances. They can remind them of the importance of follow up visits and treatments and that the costs are likely to be higher if the patient puts them off. This doesn’t mean that providers should be discussing billing with patients. It’s only an encouragement for providers to offer the assurance that their office will work with the patient.
On the billing side, billers and administrators play an essential role in helping patients navigate their healthcare expenses. It is increasingly necessary for medical offices to discuss the following with patients.
- Initial financial discussion explaining practice policy (prior to appointment).
- Insurance coverages, co-pays, and co-insurance amounts.
- Eligibility discoveries - if the patient will be responsible for expenses outside his or her coverage.
- Estimated costs for today’s visit and ongoing care.
- Treatment alternatives if there are any.
- Payment options including extended plans for large balances.
- Follow up discussion to ensure satisfaction and schedule next appointment as necessary.
Each of these steps includes a financial discussion; discussions intended to discover the patient’s ability and willingness to pay. These discussions are all intended to help the patient receive the care he or she needs while assuring them you have options for payment that fit their budget.
Reassuring patients about their financial obligations is a compassionate thing to do. Financial worry added to whatever medical issue they struggle with can make their condition worse. Practices that take the time to instruct, plan, and reassure their patients concerning financial issues have a much greater chance of improving the patient’s health while maintaining the financial health of the practice.