The landscape for healthcare payment is changing, and patients now represent a larger portion of billing revenue than before – one-third of the market. And with healthcare forecast to comprise 19.7% of the U.S. economy by 2026, healthcare organizations will be working harder than ever to satisfy patients’ healthcare needs as well as their consumer expectations.
To improve the chance of gaining revenue from current and new patients, many providers look at insurance coverage prior to a patient’s visit, to guide their expectations of who is going to pay which portions of the patient’s bill. Experts recommend training employees to verify insurance and other information during the registration process so that they can be sure to confirm or require payment before patients leave the clinic. In the past, patients might not have paid much attention to the details of their bill since many services were covered by their insurance company without a copay or deductible required, but that is changing in today’s healthcare landscape. Transparency is more important than ever, since patients are shouldering more of the financial burden of their healthcare costs and want to make sure they are being billed appropriately.
Ten years ago, health insurance companies were the main payers interacting with providers.
But with higher deductibles a common part of health plans these days, more costs have shifted to the individual patient. And that may only increase, especially if so-called “catastrophic health plans” become more widespread, with an estimated average deductible of $7,350 per person. These high deductibles can translate to more debt for patients and slower payments for providers, taking more than a month to collect payments in many cases.
Payment plans are becoming a solution for many providers looking to improve their revenue cycle while helping their patients. Interest-free payment options and education for patients have not only led to positive financial results for institutions such as Geisinger Health System and North Kansas City Hospital, they have also led to higher patient satisfaction and loyalty. These systems have worked with third-party agents who specialize in healthcare financing and have found that approaching billing as a customer service initiative rather than a collections effort results in a more positive image for the hospital in the eyes of its patients.
Patient education and financial counseling can make a huge difference when it comes to billing, with patient feedback showing that a bad experience often stems from payment concerns rather than clinical experiences. “You can do everything perfectly but when the bill comes the patient could still have some pretty negative things to say if that process wasn’t engaged and focused on them. It’s important for providers to engage patients early through whatever mechanism they can,” according to Jonathan Wiik, Principal and Lead of Revenue Cycle Management Solutions for TransUnion Healthcare.