“Healthcare consumerism” has been a buzzword on the lips of industry leaders the last few years. And since the COVID-19 pandemic, the cry for more consumer-focused solutions has only grown louder. Patients today expect the same concierge-style services they see in the retail and hospitality industries. Part of that service is the billing experience.
You may view patient billing as a simple transaction and one of the final steps of the revenue cycle management (RCM) process. But like any other part of your RCM, a sub-par performance can spell financial trouble for your business. Ultimately, a poor patient billing experience may mean less revenue.
The Patient Billing Experience: Why Does It Matter?
Billing is certainly not the patient’s favorite stage of the care continuum, but it doesn’t have to be a point of frustration or confusion. There are plenty of benefits for providers and patients when a practice offers a positive patient billing experience.
More Timely and Complete Payments
When patients understand and expect a medical bill, they’re more likely to pay it on time and in full. That means more cash flow for your practice.
According to a Connance Consumer Impact Survey, patients are less likely to pay their medical bills in full when they have a poor billing experience.
The survey showed that more than 75% of respondents with a positive billing experience paid their balance in full or in stages. Only 50% of the patients who reported a bad billing experience said they paid their balance in full or in stages.
It’s important to note that this survey result doesn’t mean patients were withholding payments on purpose. However, it points to confusing and misleading billing information and the surprise medical bills patients face.
If your patients are confused or frustrated with your practice’s billing, they’re less likely to make timely and full payments. All of that puts strain on your revenue cycle and your bottom line.
Patient Satisfaction and Loyalty
When a patient has a bad billing experience with your practice, it will reflect poorly on your reputation. There’s no getting around that.
A 2021 survey by El Studios showed that 93% of patients said a poor billing experience would discourage them from returning to a healthcare provider. And 41% of patients surveyed said they were dissatisfied with their billing experience.
If offering a better billing experience leads to higher patient satisfaction, that means more patient retention and potential referrals. All that builds growth for your practice. It also translates to fewer costs — research has shown that acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than keeping an existing one.
Elevate the Patient Financial Experience
Build stronger patient relationships while increasing upfront collections. See how Gentem’s customizable templates help you personalize estimates, statements and messaging for your patient population.
How to Elevate the Patient Billing Experience
With consumers expecting more from healthcare and medical practices today, you must provide a positive patient billing experience. But where to start? It might be as simple as a process change. Or, perhaps you can invest in a better software platform.
Here are a few ideas and best practices you can try.
Check the Patient’s Eligibility
Many billing problems start early in the RCM process with insurance eligibility. You could lose the claim from the beginning if a patient doesn’t have an active plan. Or, if a patient’s plan is out of network, the cost for the care could be much higher than the patient anticipated. That could mean delays in the collection process.
Checking insurance eligibility before the patient encounter is critical for a smooth claim filing process. It also helps patients avoid costly surprise bills. Consider setting up a regular verification process that checks all patient appointments for the week so that you can catch any issues ahead of time.
An accurate, real-time eligibility tool can help speed up this process so your team isn’t bogged down checking multiple payer sources for eligibility. A tool with batch eligibility checks can also streamline insurance verification if you need to check many patients at a time.
Send Estimates Before the Appointment
When patients don’t pay medical bills, it’s often because they weren’t expecting the bill or don’t understand why they’re being charged. Providing estimates at or before an appointment can help avoid this confusion.
Estimates can also help boost patient relationships, as more transparency can improve your practice’s reputation. A 2018 HIMSS survey showed that 68% of patients would likely return to a practice if it provided cost estimates before the appointment or procedure.
Choose the Right Communication Channel
A major part of consumerism is meeting patients where they are and using the communication channels they prefer. For some patients, that may mean the typical (paper) mailed estimates and statements. But for a growing portion of your patient population, you may need to use email or text communication.
A 2021 evaluation of 295 orthopedic surgery patients showed that 98.2% of the patients liked text communication, and 95.5% felt they were more connected with their care team when using texts.
Determining a patient’s communication preferences will improve their responses to your estimates and, in some cases, make it easier for them to pay statements. With an email or text statement, the patient can easily pay it on their phone right when they receive it.
Personalize Invoices and Statements
Put on your patient hat for a minute and think back to the last medical bill or statement you received. How personalized was it? Or was it fairly generic?
As someone who works in the healthcare industry, you may not think twice about this approach and understand the bill. But a generic medical bill without much information can be confusing for an average patient who isn’t familiar with the healthcare system.
Personalizing estimates, statements and bills with your practice information (name, logos, contact details, etc.) can help clarify why the patient is receiving the bill. It’s also important to adjust what type of information you include in the statement. Too much information can be overwhelming, but too little may confuse the patient about the costs associated with their care.
How do you communicate estimates and bills with patients today? Are you simply sending a paper invoice and that’s it? In today’s age of consumerism, it’s crucial to not only think about how you’re sending the patient bills but what you’re saying when you send them.
Part of what makes private medical practices so special is the personal connection patients feel with their providers. So, why take that connection away when you’re sending a statement or invoice?
Whether through text, email or paper mail, customizing your messaging to fit the patient population can help make the communication feel personal. It will reinforce your brand and, ideally, show the patient why they chose your practice in the first place. And all that can make a world of difference when it comes to patients making timely, complete payments.
Treat the Patient Billing Experience as More Than a Transaction
Healthcare consumerism may be a buzzword, but it’s hardly a passing trend. Patients expect more of their providers today and providers need to deliver — especially when it comes to billing.
Creating a positive billing experience at your practice will pay off in spades. Not only will it improve your collections and RCM, but it will also bolster your patient relationships. And stronger relationships lead to more referrals and revenue.
With Gentem on your side, you can create that personalized patient billing experience. Our physician-designed platform includes customizable patient invoices, estimates and billing messages that you can tailor to your patient population. Our real-time eligibility and estimates also help reduce claim problems while increasing upfront patient payments.