Asking for Patient Payments: 3 Ways to Ease the Pain
The shift toward high deductible plans isn’t going away.
Preliminary survey findings show that 73% of large employers plan to introduce a high deductible plan to employees within the next three years and 20% of those employers say it will be the only choice offered. It’s more important than ever that your staff is empowered and effective at collecting point of service patient payments. But asking patients for larger amounts of money is not easy for some of your staff who have traditionally only had to ask for small co-pays or nothing at all.
Here are three things you can do to help ease the pain while succeeding at point of service collections:
- Explain to staff that patients benefit. Yes, stepping up your point of service collection efforts will protect your profitability, but direct communication with patients about their financial responsibilities is better for them too! By taking the initiative to prepare patients for their medical expenses your practice becomes a stronger partner, advocate, and resource to patients by reducing patient shock and frustration over unexpected expenses and shedding light on unfamiliar lingo. Your practice is expressing that you’re on patients’ side when you accept an array of payment methods and offer payment plans for larger balances, thus helping patients to afford the healthcare they need. When staff can grasp that the practice is helping patients receive and pay for the care they need, they can stop feeling bad and be more matter-of-fact about asking for payment.
- Show staff the numbers behind the methods. Nowadays, patient portion accounts for as much as 30% of practice revenue.
You can’t afford to leave that money on the table by risking that patients pay late, pay only partially, or worse, not pay at all. But saying just that isn’t enough; your staff need to know the real numbers for your individual practice and participate in setting specific improvement goals. Sharing the hard numbers with your staff can make all the difference because it helps them see how their job directly contributes to the success of the practice. And you’re sure to see more enthusiasm when they are a part of the process with goal setting!
- Back your staff up with patient-friendly tools and communication. You’re asking your staff to change how they communicate with patients and put themselves ‘out there’ by initiating financial conversations. That might feel like an uncomfortable stretch for them. Scripts, workshops, webinars, role-playing, and shadowing are all great ways to equip staff to keep it positive and matter-of-fact. Another way to support their efforts is by having a patient financial policy that is communicated clearly to patients. By giving your staff the tools and training they need to keep positive options for patients at their fingertips–like credit card on file, patient payment solutions, or third party health credit services–they are empowered to take an advocacy tone with patients and be more successful with their collection efforts.
 “Survey predicts health benefit cost increases will edge up in 2015” Mercer Newsroom, www.mercer.com