Your Patients Don't See Your Practice as a Business (and Why This Needs to Change)
If you look at a business in any industry, you will see the same basic business model: businesses expect to be paid for the services they provide, and customers expect to pay for what they consume.
But when it comes to healthcare, typical business rules don’t always apply. Doctors provide essential services, but patients aren’t always prepared to pay for them. Or sometimes it’s the other way around: the cost of going to the doctor is top-of-mind for the patient, but the doctor is reluctant to talk about costs at all.
As a result, payment is often secondary to providing care. This is a business model that wouldn’t be sustainable in any other industry—and it doesn’t work great in healthcare, either.
Eleven percent of working Americans work in healthcare. Twenty-four percent of U.S. government spending is on Medicare and Medicaid Services. Healthcare is one of the largest categories of consumer spending and accounts for nearly 20 percent of GDP, but in doctor’s offices around the U.S., practices still seem reticent to implement a pay culture that focuses on the business of medicine and the value it provides to patients.
Changing the Culture
For practices to weather the storms ahead, patient payment culture has to change. This starts with practice employees.
Despite everything they do to keep the office running smoothly—from scheduling appointments to processing payments to keeping the lobby clean—staff don’t always see themselves as supporting a business, at least not in the way someone working in retail would.
Job descriptions don’t need to change to create a business-based culture, but a shift in mindset does make a difference. Here are a few ways to accomplish this:
Train staff to think of your practice as a business that must collect money to stay viable.
Be transparent about where the money is going. This doesn’t mean sharing your expense report with everyone. Simply reiterate that a practice, like any business, has business expenses—everything from medical equipment to office supplies to utility costs. This reminds employees that each person has a role in helping the practice remain financially sustainable.
Get everyone on board with a “no payment, no service” policy. This may be difficult to enforce at times, but having a no-exceptions approach to payment is essential for any business to remain viable, not to mention it will simplify things for you long term.
Establish a "Pay First" Culture Among Patients
With staff ready to enforce a “pay first” policy, patients need to be informed about what your pay expectations are. Here are a few ways to accomplish this:
Post signs throughout the office that say payment will be due before a visit begins.
Tell patients when they schedule an appointment that payment will be due at check-in.
If you allow patients to check in online, add an option for them to pay their copay online—before they even enter the office. This video has simple instructions on how to pay for pre-visit charges. You can send it to patients who are interested in paying before their visit, or embed the video on your website.
Give patients a variety of ways to pay. Some prefer to pay when they arrive at the office, some may want to pay online beforehand, and others will need a payment plan set up. The easier you make it for them to pay, the happier they will be to do so. All of these payment options are available for BillFlash users who use Pay Services.
Most patients are happy to fulfill their payment responsibility—as long as they are clear on what that is. Make sure they know when they will be required to pay their portion so they can be prepared. And then stick to this policy no matter what.
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