My title sounds far fetched, doesn’t it? It’s over-the-top and a bit ‘National Enquirer’. A little ridiculous to think that a payment plan could save someone’s life. But it actually relates to a true story.
This story was recently related to me about an EMT ambulance driver who was faced with what could have been a life or death situation. His ambulance got the call for an elderly gentleman who was experiencing a cardiac event. Upon arrival, the EMT’s began to work on him and determined he needed immediate cardiac care.
They began to prep him for the gurney to get him into the ambulance and off to the ER. As they were explaining to him what was about to happen he cried out that he couldn’t go to the hospital. ‘Don’t take me to the hospital’, he begged. The EMT’s tried to calm him but he kept insisting that he couldn’t go.
The EMT driver of the ambulance knew the situation was critical and tried to find out why the man was refusing to go to the hospital. After a few hit and miss questions it finally came out that the man couldn’t go because he didn’t have any money to pay. He was afraid he would get to the hospital and be hit with bills he couldn’t possibly handle.
That’s when the EMT remembered a conversation he had with some of the folks in the billing department a few days earlier. They were talking about the crises with poor and uninsured folks coming to the ER for care when it would be much less expensive to go to an urgent care or primary care physician. He remembered them mentioning they accept small monthly payments and set them up on automated recurring payment plans.
The EMT quickly related the conversation to the suffering man and assured him the hospital would work with him to find payment amounts he could handle. They would set him up on a payment plan so he didn’t have to worry. It was this extra tidbit of knowledge about how the hospital works with patients that helped the EMT persuade the gentleman. He then allowed himself to be taken in for some life saving care.
This may sound a bit cheesy to many of us but it’s a real challenge patients may face. For a growing number of the uninsured and those with high deductible plans it’s a difficult reality. They simply cannot afford to pay a large medical bill in a short period of time.
Offering your patients a simple, affordable, automated payment plan may not save any lives at your practice, but it could win some appreciation. When we work with people to help them solve a real problem we win their trust. They are more likely to complete their treatment plan and return when they need additional treatment.
If your medical staff is not familiar with the payment options your practice offers; you may want to bring them up to speed. You probably don’t want them to have financial conversations with their patients, but knowing what options are available may just help them encourage a patient to seek the treatment he or she needs.
The more we work with the financial challenges of our patients, the more they will trust us to work with their health challenges.