The rise in healthcare costs over the past few years has impacted both patients and providers alike. Consumers are choosing higher deductibles to secure lower monthly premiums, leading to larger medical bills and declining patient payment collections. Deductibles for single workers have increased 54% over the past five years, while out-of-pocket costs have increased by 4.6% in 2021.
As patients struggle to cover ever-growing medical expenses, providers are finding it harder to collect unpaid bills. Studies show that 62%of healthcare providers’ administration costs are spent on billing and insurance-related activities. Patient collection rates must increase if practitioners want to avoid potentially crippling losses. What strategies can billers use to overcome these challenges and maximize their revenue collection?
How to Increase Patient Payment Collections in 2023
According to the American Hospital Association, health systems are still experiencing 19.5% fewer inpatient visits and 34.5% fewer outpatient visits than in 2019. Although collecting patient revenue at pre-pandemic levels might be unattainable for now, healthcare organizations can still take steps to improve their payment collection rates in 2023.
1. Implement Patient Payment Plans
Many individuals are struggling to make bill payments, and the few appointments that they are willing or able to schedule might now be even more expensive for them due to changes in coverage. Instead of paying co-pay or deductible in person, all telehealth visits will need to be billed via email, mail, or phone. When the bill finally comes, patients might be shocked and stressed to realize they incorrectly budgeted for their appointment or were unable to set money aside in advance.
Payment plans help give patients peace of mind about gradually paying off their out-of-pocket amount and will result in more consistent collections over time. Offering payment plans as an easy way to fund a doctor’s visit could also encourage an increase in elective services.
Pro Tip: Check out our eBook for more information about payment plans!
2. Improve Billing Security
The Covid-19 Pandemic severely heightened healthcare cybersecurity threats over the last year. In fact, 93%of healthcare organizations have experienced a data breach over the past three years, while 57% have had more than five data breaches during this time. The security of a patient’s records, billing information, and claim data is paramount to building trust between the provider and the consumer. Only work with patient billing companies that earned a HITRUST CSF certification, which serves to protect both provider and patient against data breaches. Using a patient payment service with heightened security measures helps gain trust from the patient, which can help encourage timely and complete payments.
3. Follow Up
Have you found yourself feeling more forgetful in the last few months, either professionally or in your personal life, even if you haven’t had a COVID-19 infection? You’re not alone. According to several studies, this prolonged period of stress and social distancing is having a negative impact on our brains and our ability to remember.
“Follow up” might seem like a silly or unnecessary tip, but think about how many of your patients are potentially not paying their bill because they’ve simply forgotten. With the stresses of at-home child or parent care, working from home or job losses, fear of infection, ill or at-risk loved ones, and the constant barrage of alarming news about global pandemic trends, your patients have a lot on their minds. Consider developing a phone call plan in which your billing department reaches out to those with overdue bills.
During these calls, your staff should be prepared to walk patients through payment options and collect patient payments over the phone. When these calls are framed as courtesy calls instead of collections calls, your patients will be thankful that you helped them avoid late fees and understand their options.
Text message reminders also serve to remind patients of outstanding balances in a less intrusive manner than a phone call.
4. Offer Contactless Patient Payment
Contactless patient payments bring various benefits. In terms of public health, the risk of contact transmission of COVID-19 and other illnesses is greatly reduced. In terms of payment collection, the opportunities to collect a patient payment are greatly increased.
For example, if your medical practice uses an online health portal, consider how you can use that portal to encourage your patients to view and pay their balances. This could be done even before they come in for their appointment as part of a check-in or registration process. Even without an online health portal, your practice can still take steps like incorporating QR codes into paperwork to direct patients to an online payment page or by offering a pay-by-phone option as part of a follow-up call.
If your healthcare organization has yet to transition to a low-contact or contactless payment system, now is the time to make the switch.
5. Plan for the Future
Levels of patient visits will remain lower than pre-pandemic for as long as COVID-19 continues to pose threats to all. While this will have some negative impacts on medical practices, this period will also give you the chance to review your revenue cycle for improvement opportunities. Now is the time to plan for 2023 and what your revenue cycle will look in the coming years.
Have you been meaning to update your practice’s billing software or reorganize the structure of your billing department? Is there data that you’d like to collect about customer satisfaction, but you haven’t had the time to put together a survey distribution and analysis plan? Right now is the optimal time to renovate your revenue cycle in preparation for the new year.
Pro Tip: If you’re not sure where to start, review these 8 patient billing KPIs to determine the strength of your patient collection system.
MailMyStatements is a technology-driven patient statement and payment vendor that offers managed patient billing needs varying from payment plan capabilities to statement design. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our various solutions to help increase patient collections.
Hugh Sullivan is the CEO of MailMyStatements, an industry-leading healthcare billing, and payments company. He has over 25 years of experience as a seasoned healthcare executive, was the co-founder of ENS Health — a highly successful national healthcare electronic data interchange company, and has served in various leadership roles within Optum, a UnitedHealth Group company. Considered as an industry thought leader, Hugh is an expert in using health IT to improve healthcare information exchange, which can enhance the quality of care, improve efficiency, and reduce costs.
You can follow Hugh on Twitter @hughdsullivan