A significant amount of healthcare practices still use an outdated medical billing system. This only exasperates one of the most common issues facing medical practices today: getting patients to pay their healthcare bills on time – the key to shortening the payment cycle and ensuring healthy cash flow. Any error and delay will not only hurt your finances but also create a frustrating patient experience that can erode trust and hurt patient retention.
As patients are now responsible for a larger portion of their medical bills, payment collection has become more complex and challenging. You have to cater to consumer expectations and behaviors, which is very different from working with insurance companies.
To streamline your processes, minimize errors or delays, and improve the patient experience, you need to understand the top medical billing mistakes and learn how to prevent them.
Top Medical Billing Mistakes and How to Solve Them
Here are some common medical billing mistakes healthcare professionals make, how they can impact your ability to collect payments, and what you can do about it:
1. Limited Payment Options
Most consumers prefer to pay their bills online using credit cards, bank transfer, PayPal, Amazon Pay, and other methods. If they have to write a check, find an envelope, and hunt for a stamp, they’re less likely to send payments promptly.
If you aren’t offering a variety of payment options that are convenient for your patients, they’re more likely to delay paying their bills, which means your cash flow will suffer.
Set up an online payment portal that allows you to process various payment methods to make it as easy as possible for patients to pay you. You can also offer payment plans to encourage patients to make an immediate payment.
In fact, medical systems that implemented patient financial engagement solutions like payment portals and text reminders experienced a valuable return on the investment.
Your payment site should be fast and secure (e.g., comply with HIPAA and HITRUST standards) to deliver an outstanding user experience that’ll encourage patients to pay on time while ensuring that you’re adhering to strict industry regulations.
2. Fraud Charges and Medical Billing Errors
Did you know that up to 80% of medical bills contain errors? These can be caused by poor documentation, missing explanations of benefits, incorrect patient information, etc. Also, duplicate and wrongful billing can create a frustrating experience and increase your administrative cost.
Medical billing mistakes aren’t just inconvenient—they can trigger investigations and billing audits, which can increase cost, result in penalties, and damage your practice’s reputation.
Avoid using non-specific diagnostic codes, incorrect modifiers, or inaccurate billing codes. Automate your billing process to minimize errors and delays associated with having to manually re-key the information from one system to another.
Stay on top of medical billing changes, which can impact how you submit claims, determine patient responsibilities, and more. It’s not easy for providers, especially smaller practices, to make sure that their systems are keeping up with all the requirements. Outsourcing your billing process to a reputable third-party provider can ensure that your procedure adheres to all the requirements while minimizing administrative costs.
3. Patient Data Protection
Medical billing and payment processing is complex and highly-specialized. Without the right tools and expertise, your staff could be spending hours on the processes and still make costly mistakes.
In addition, the IT cost associated with maintaining an up-to-date system has become cost-prohibitive for many practices. However, without the proper infrastructure and security measures, you could run into compliance issues (e.g., HIPAA) that will result in hefty fines.
Outsource your medical billing, patient statement mailing, and payment handling to a reputable third-party vendor that meets the highest cybersecurity standards (e.g., HITRUST certification). This will not only reduce your ongoing overhead associated with billing and payment processing but also ensure that you’re staying compliant with the latest security standards to protect your patients’ sensitive information.
4. Confusing Patient Statements
Patients are more likely to pay promptly if they understand what they’re paying for. If your billing statement is hard to read or understand, patients will have to call your office to get clarification before making a payment.
Not only will the delay impact your cash flow, but having to answer queries from individual patients will put a strain on your resources and increase the administrative cost.
Use a patient-friendly statement template to minimize confusion. Consolidate line items and make sure the charges are properly explained. Use clear language and include explicit directions (e.g., how to make payments). You can also include a QR code so patients can simply scan it and make payments using their mobile devices.
5. Inadequate Patient Communication
Today, most consumers choose to receive invoices and other notices electronically. Patients are expecting medical practices to offer digital communication options like eStatements and text reminders due to the increased clarity and simplicity. Digital communications reach patients faster and help encourage prompt payments.
Patients will hold off paying their bills if they’re hit with surprise charges, which also impact the patient experience and retention rate. They’re also less likely to pay promptly if they don’t understand your billing procedure or their financial responsibilities before receiving treatment.
Providing patients with the option to receive eStatements and text message reminders allows them to take control of their healthcare experience and can improve patient satisfaction and loyality.
Make sure patients understand their treatment options and financial responsibilities before any procedure. Having a quick conversation with the patient can prevent costly and time-consuming misunderstandings or disputes down the line.
Provide training to your staff so they have the right knowledge and communication skills to handle these conversations with clarity, empathy, and compassion. Implement financial policies to make communicating estimated costs of services and informing patients about their financial responsibilities part of your standard operating procedure.
By eliminating the top billing mistakes in your medical practice, you can shorten billing cycles, maintain healthy cash flow, prevent regulatory violations, and deliver a better patient experience that will help you retain more patients and become more profitable.
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