10 Easy Ideas to Improve Patient Experience
December 8, 2022
In a TSYS healthcare survey, 54% of physicians' offices reported 3% - 9% of their patients never paid their medical bills. Another 22% of doctors said it was closer to a quarter of their patients that don't pay.
Delinquent accounts impair cash flow, occupy staff time with collections, and may even prevent a business from obtaining a loan.
This is an especially challenging issue for physicians. How can you implement a more aggressive accounts receivable strategy with your patients while maintaining care and compassion?
The key is good communication and the right technology. With that in mind, here are five ways to get patients to pay their bills.
A great (and profitable) patient relationship begins with the front office staff. One only has to scroll through Google reviews of a few physicians to see how much a patient's interaction with staff members affected their opinion of the entire practice.
Healthgrade reports that in a 2018 analysis of nearly 7 million reviews, the most negative comments were those related to front office staff interactions.
You may wonder what this has to do with patients paying their bills. It's simple - people are less likely to pay those they don't like. In an article in Renal & Urology News, Vicki Seredich of Lockstep (creators of accounts receivable software) said, "If we treat people as humans, we can produce a much better result than collections or a demanding phone call. People always pay the people they like first."
Train your front office staff to treat patients as though they were paying customers. Great customer service entails treating people kindly and courteously, both over the phone and in person. The bill reminds patients of their experience at your office and if they recall it as a negative interaction, they will be less inclined to pay.
The same TSYS Healthcare Survey also reported 62% of patients preferred to pay their medical bill with a debit or credit card, and 54% of patients pay online within 48 hours of receiving their bill or reminder.
However, less than 50% of the practices surveyed offered an online payment method. Clearly, many physicians are missing an opportunity to both increase their capital and provide convenience for their patients.
An online payment method can take several forms. It can be integrated into your website, or tied to your accounting software. With the second method, customers receive an emailed invoice with a link to pay their bill right away. Having both electronic options available to patients gives them easy access to take care of their bills.
Safely storing a patient's credit card information is another way to encourage payments and reduce outstanding receivables. Amazon and other online retailers have used this technique for years to boost completed sales and other businesses are following suit, including medical practices.
Most accounting software programs offer the ability to save a customer's card information. With the customer's permission, this method speeds up the phone or online payment process, making it more convenient for the patient to pay their bill.
In their report referenced earlier, TSYS gives an example of one practice that implemented a card-on-file program and reduced their accounts receivable by 28% in six months. Those are impressive results from one simple change.
The more digital communication channels available to patients, the more opportunities there are for reminding the patient to pay their bills. In one survey, 51% of patients said they would use text or email to interact with their doctor's office if the option were available. Another survey showed patients' response rate to text messages specifically, was 52% higher than that for email messages.
Multiple surveys demonstrate that patients are ready for their doctors to step up their communication game and use more digital methods. Digital communication tools such as email, text, chatbots, and patient portal messaging enhance the patient's experience as well as provide additional opportunities to capture revenue.
In any business, collecting debt requires persistent follow-up. Informing patients of past due balances at check-in and sending electronic and/or paper reminders at set intervals are obvious ways of accomplishing this.
Ensuring patients understand their bill should also be part of the follow-up protocol. In a survey targeting patients who were behind on medical bills, Waystar reported only about half of those surveyed didn't pay a medical bill for financial reasons. The other half of patients simply didn't fully understand their bill. When your staff reaches out to patients for payment, make certain they ask if there is any confusion about the bill and take the time to answer the patient's questions. This simple step will help reduce misunderstandings and lingering balances on the books.
Over 85% of Americans use Smartphones and when asked if they have used their phone to make a bill payment in the last 30 days, 46% of those surveyed responded yes. With consumers' growing preference for text communication, a text-to-pay option just makes sense. This emerging technology allows patients to receive a text reminder about their bill and provides a link for them to pay with just a few taps.
Text-to-pay is a simple and effective measure to encourage patients to pay their bills and is easy to include in payment follow-up procedures. With this method, payment capture is more immediate than other reminder methods and staff time spent on collections is reduced.
When patients can respond to their payment reminders with questions and receive a quick reply, this fosters trust in their medical provider - another benefit of this service.
Getting patients to pay their bills will always be a challenge for healthcare providers. Practices that focus on excellent customer service and communication plus offer advanced payment options have a better chance of receiving swift payment. A text-to-pay service encompasses these demands and will give your practice an advantage over your competition.
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