One of the realities that US healthcare providers must face is the increasing number of privately purchased health plans. High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) have low monthly premiums but require patients to pay a high amount out-of-pocket for care.
With yearly out-of-pocket expenses (including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance) for HDHPs capped at $6,650 for an individualor twice the amount for a family, most patients in the United States find it difficult to offset their medical expenses from a median household income of about $57,600. A survey by the Federal Reserve Board also showed that almost 50 percent of their respondents report finding it difficult to make an unexpected medical expense as little as $400.
This means that the greater financial risk (of default in payments by patients) has been shifted to providers. This situation calls for better financial relationships with patients who now have a significant responsibility.
Here are 3 tips to consider to build a better financial relationship with your patients:
1. Start Financial Conversation Early
Traditionally, providers delay the financial conversation until after care has been given to patients; although the clinical conversation is often initiated earlier on in the process. With the shift towards patient self-pay arrangements, providers need to start discussing patient financial obligations early in the process.
Providers need to open flexible and clear channels of financial communication with patients well before the care has been provided. Conversation on financial responsibilities should also be handled with finesse to prevent a negative response from patients. Payment options available to patients should be clearly stated without any hidden terms and conditions. In a value-based system, this will go a long way in building trust with patients.
2. Understand the Patient’s Ability to Pay
A major challenge with self-pay is that not all patients are alike with regards to their understanding and response to their financial obligations. While some patients understand the provider’s billing process well, others simply do not. In fact, for some, the process is seen as complex and confusing, which makes self-pay a rather tedious exercise.
Being able to understand patients well will help providers determine who needs more help regarding their ability to pay. In-house research can be conducted to segment patients according to their propensity to pay and to personalize the collection approach. Such research should be designed to elicit response from patients in the most transparent manner.
3. Introduce Patient Financing Option
Identifying those who are most likely to default on payments is not enough. Providers need to introduce flexible payment and financing options to them in a friendly way. With the shift towards consumerism in healthcare, patients expect a “consumer experience” from providers.
Communication with patients about their financial obligations will therefore have to done with personalization in mind. Each patient should be able to access an automated online platform that offers customized information on their financial obligations and the flexible payments plans they can choose from. Providers that offer an outstanding consumer experience to patients will reap the rewards in their bottom line.
At MnetHealth, we can help build a better financial relationship with your patients. We are experienced at optimizing self-pay collections by offering innovative financial solutions that simplify the payment process for both patients and providers. By leveraging our online platform, patients can access state of the art payment engagement solutions that will greatly benefit your practice.