Usually, no one intends for patient payments to be late. Most patients do not intend to default on their medical bills. However, illness can strike at the most inopportune times, including when people are already struggling financially. A patient may not be able to pay all of the bill during treatment, though physicians and administrators can make patient payments easier for everyone.
Whether that comes in the form of staggered treatment or patient payment plans, it’s important that everyone collaborates to ensure timely and complete patient payments. This creates better outcomes for us all, so let’s take a closer look.
Better Staff Training
First and foremost, you want to empower patients to be responsible for their payments during the course of treatment. It’s critical that staff be both sensitive and assertive. Finding out what a patient owes before their appointment can help; collecting the full copay and deductibles at the desk ensures everything is done right.
“No pay, no visit” policies are also an option: reschedule any appointments (other than for seriously ill patients) if payment cannot be made on that day. If you’re going to have such a policy, make sure it is clearly outlined on documentation and your website.
Use language such as, “And how would you like to pay today?” to help patients feel comfortable with the payment process. These scripts can be expanded to help your staff deal with any potential problems or difficult patients.
Review Insurance Policies
Ignoring the fine print of insurance plan coverage can be tempting, especially when employees often have limited input on policy changes, receive little advance notice or encouragement from human resources to discuss the impact of these changes. Additionally, many Americans who are covered under the Affordable Care Act may have opted for high-deductible plans, potentially leaving them unaware of the out-of-pocket expenses required before their coverage kicks in.
To ensure a smoother process, a practice manager should take the initiative to thoroughly review patients’ insurance coverage with them, both before and, if necessary, during the initial stages of treatment. It is crucial to maintain active insurance policies throughout the treatment period and to encourage patients to promptly inform staff of any updates, fostering improved communication from the start of their service.
Discuss Payment Plans Early
Generally, patients are willing to take responsibility for their services. It is important to explore options that make this responsibility both affordable and automated. Patients can select a preferred payment method and then connect it to their accounts to ensure that payments are automatically processed by their due dates. During times of heightened stress and anxiety, it’s common for individuals to set aside thoughts of financial obligations. Automation represents a step toward consistent, manageable payments that don’t overwhelm patients. Some practices opt to utilize third-party vendors, who securely collect payments from patients’ credit cards, safeguarding sensitive information through encryption.
To formalize the patient payment plan, it should be documented, agreed upon, and signed by the patients involved. This agreement should include clear terms regarding the consequences of missed payments. Payment plans should generally not extend beyond six months. Furthermore, it is essential to offer multiple payment options, including online options and accessibility through a web portal.
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