The pressure on medical offices to collect money from the patient continues to build with the latest news from Trans Union. It seems that patient out-of-pocket costs have increased by double digits for yet another year.
Since 1970 there have been only two small dips in the percentage of out-of-pocket expense growth for the patient. Otherwise, the trend is a sharp line upward. And recently, by double digits every year. Last year, 2018, the increase was 14%.
Given this continuing trend, your office will need to move the collection of patient payments up the priority scale or you may find yourself on the wrong end of the patient A/R curve.
If patient costs continue to climb, you can expect several results. The first is that patients will put off medical care. Which means that conditions can deteriorate and end up costing even more than they might have if the patient hadn’t put them off due to cost.
The second is that patient debt will grow and patients will struggle more to pay. You can head this off by putting the tools in place to counteract the slow-pay, no-pay trends. The sooner you act, the better chance you have to help your patients with their budgets while helping your practice remain financially viable.
The third result, and possibly the worst for your private practice, is that the government will step in with more controls. As the pain grows, the outcry from voters will reach the next wave of candidates. An we all know what politicians will often do to get elected or re-elected. They will make promises that may be great for folks who don’t want to ‘pay’ for their healthcare, but devastating to the healthcare community.
These are only three of the possible outcomes of rising patient costs. You can get out in front of these with a few simple exercises. Be consistent with the list below and you will find your practice can avoid the worst of the consequences of rising patient costs.
- Talk to your patients about the cost. Many practices remain silent to avoid a conflict. But find, in the end, the conflict comes when they have to collect late payments. Having an open and honest discussion about the costs up-front can lead to great solutions and patient retention.
- Work with your patients to resolve the bill. Discovering the patient’s ability and willingness to pay is a great first step. Follow it up with a plan that works for them and for your practice.
- Stay engaged with your patients throughout the process. Even when you have a plan for payment, you will need to check in. People always do better when a relationship exists. A short call, text, or email to check on their health is perfect. Use the opportunity to give them a payment reminder.
Staying ahead of the statistics will prevent your practice from becoming one. Perhaps the best advice is to read the trends and prepare for them. You are the key to running a great practice in a way that keeps patients happy and healthy!