Sometimes revenue cycle improvement starts with taking a fresh look at the tools you already have at your disposal. Let’s revisit three important areas where your organization could benefit from process improvements: payment plans, scoring, and patient segmentation.
Zero-interest payment plans are an attractive option for patients, especially as out-of-pocket medical expenses continue to place more financial responsibility on the patient. Follow some of these best practices to be sure your payment plans are working in the best interest of your health system and your patients.
- Offer the payment plan at the point-of-service and collect an initial amount upfront.
Waiting until the first print bill to offer a payment plan as an option could add confusion or be missed entirely by the patient. Getting the first payment at the point-of-service will engage the patient in the plan and increase their likelihood of following through with subsequent payments to pay in full. The key here is an accurate point-of-service cost estimation tool so patients can understand the financial commitment they are facing.
- Store payment information securely to earn and keep your patients’ trust.
Storing payment information is critical for any recurring payment but doing so compliantly and securely is a must. Be sure your payment processing technologies are up to date and review your merchant services contracts to see if there is an opportunity to improve payment reconciliation.
- Send payment reminders — even for scheduled payments.
While the first payment is top of mind for patients, the second, third, or tenth payments may not be so fresh. Avoid confusion and the potential for mistaken chargebacks by sending automated alerts to patients before a scheduled payment is charged to their account and again when the payment posts.
- Review your payment terms.
Offering some level of flexibility in establishing payment plans gives patients a feeling of control, but your organization needs to structure some guidelines to ensure the cash flow is favorable. Review your minimum monthly payment amounts and maximum repayment terms. Stick to these across the organization.
A study in the Journal of Health Care Finance found that patient-friendly payment plans had a positive impact on patients’ social outcomes, access to care, and their ability to pay for medical expenses. Patients who utilized zero-interest payment plans were less likely to:
- Not fill a prescription due to cost.
- Skip a medical test, treatment, or follow-up due to cost.
- Skip a doctor or clinic visit due to cost.
- Be unable to pay for basic necessities due to medical bills.
- Delay education or career plans due to medical bills.
An important but often overlooked aspect of propensity-to-pay scoring is financial assistance modeling. This type of scoring on the front end can identify patients who may need extra financial assistance to pay their medical bills and can screen patients for Medicare eligibility.
With this critical information at hand at the beginning of the revenue cycle, health systems can immediately route patients into the proper collections workflows to arrive at the best outcome sooner.
Some scoring solutions can also drive pre-filled financial assistance applications, reducing friction in completing the process and helping patients take control of their finances.
Patients want to feel a personal touch in every communication from their healthcare provider, whether it’s in person, an appointment reminder, or even a bill. Even the largest health systems can create personal-feeling statements and communications at scale using automated analytics to inform and create targeted patient messaging. The key is thorough segmentation.
One way to start with segmentation is to break your patient population into four groups based on their ability and attitude toward paying for their healthcare services:
- Willing and able
- Willing but unable
- Able but unwilling
- Unwilling and unable
Even with this basic information, you can begin messaging more effectively to patients based on their attitudes and abilities. Add in more detailed patient information based on demographics, payment histories, and propensity-to-pay analysis, and you will soon have the capability to send much more effective messaging.
Segmentation can also help you save money and resources in collections. Those patients who are willing and able to pay will not require much assistance and can be best served by automated collections workflows. At the same time, the unwilling and unable cohort may not be easily persuaded. Instead, focus on the middle two groups who need help clearing mental or financial hurdles to initiate or complete the payment process.
This article was originally published on RevSpring and is republished here with permission.