Improve Your Practice Revenue by Educating Patients on Their Payment Options
Imagine for a moment you’re buying a car. Before you even enter a car lot, you do some research on the type of car you need, the features you’re looking for, and how much you’re able to spend. You might get an opinion from friends or check out reviews online.
Having gathered all the information you need, you’re ready to start shopping. If you’re lucky, someone will hand you the keys to your new car by the end of the day.
This is how most business transactions work: you have a need, you research the best ways to meet that need, and you make a purchase.
The healthcare industry doesn’t follow this formula. Your medical practice is a business just like any other, but your customers—aka, patients—often seek out your services not knowing exactly what they will be “buying” from you, nor how much they’ll be paying. Add in health insurance and surprise bills and you have a confusing hodgepodge of information that calculates the patient’s final bill—which they likely won’t see for several weeks.
It’s an inefficient system, and it’s part of the reason up to 30% of patient bills go unpaid every year.
Changing the Patient's Financial Experience
Many practices have improved their revenue flow by simply treating their patients more like customers. In other words, they educate them on the financial side of things as well as how to manage their health.
In a recent NexTrust webinar, three-quarters of poll respondents (doctors and practice managers) said they speak to patients about their payment options. Only 8% use printed materials (flyers, signs, etc.), and 31% use electronic communications.
While speaking to patients is a good start, getting payment information in writing is crucial to driving this information home. Patients already have a lot to remember regarding their care. A simple handout on how and when to make their payments would make it much easier for patients to manage their payment responsibility
Most providers—over 90%—educate patients about how to pay on their statements. It certainly doesn’t hurt to communicate this information this way, but don’t rely on it exclusively. Most people skim the statement to see how much they owe and may miss important instructions.
As you educate patients on their payment options, keep these four key areas in mind.
1. Set Clear Expectations about Payments
The first step in financially engaging your patients is to remind them you are a business—and that you require regular, on-time payments to keep your doors open. Patients often don’t see their doctors as business owners. A simple statement upfront about your payment expectations encourages patients to be more proactive in paying their bills on time.
2. Educate Patients about Your Payments Process
When patients understand your payments process, they are empowered to be more proactive in participating in it. You know where billing and payments fit into your practice workflow—make sure patients understand it, too. If you require copays to be paid before a visit, communicate that beforehand so they are prepared. Communicate clearly about when any remaining balances are due, as well.
3. Push Your Online Payment Options
The best thing you can do to increase payments is to educate patients about their online payment options. Don’t just say “We accept payments online” and leave it at that. Show them where to go to complete payments. Tell them about the variety of payment options available to them.
For example, NexTrust BillFlash users have several online payment options:
Guest Pay—Patients can quickly pay their balance without having to set up an account
MyProviderLink.com—If the patient wants access to more features (such as the ability to check their balance without having to call the office or to set up automatic payments), they can register for an account through BillFlash’s payment portal
LinkPay—The practice sends a payment link to patients before their visit so they can pay what they owe before the visit starts
PlanPay—Split up larger bills into smaller monthly payments
Online payments are the future of healthcare. So make sure your online payment options are front and center whenever you bill patients. This could include a note in their statement directing them to pay online, handing out instruction cards on how to pay online, and posting signs throughout your office directing patients to your payment portal.
Learn more about online billing
4. Reach Out to Patients You Haven't Seen Lately
Forty percent of patients defer or skip care because they don’t think they can afford it. Make sure you get the word out to your entire patient base that you can accommodate any patient’s financial circumstances, whether that means setting up a payment plan or delaying payment for a few months. If patients know they have affordable payment options, they will be more likely to seek you out when they need help rather than go somewhere else or defer care entirely.
Empowering Patients to Take Ownership over Their Healthcare Bills