Patient payment increasingly more at stake for today’s providers

April 25, 2018
Karen Hauer
VP, Patient Responsibility,
ABILITY Network

Over the last decade, we’ve seen patient payment evolve rapidly and significantly. Rising insurance costs, an increasing portion of patient responsibility in the form of higher deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, and co-pays mean that patients are funding an increasingly higher proportion of their medical expenses.

Efficiently managing patients as payers within a provider’s revenue cycle is critical. As the administrative burden of patient payers increases, the right technology can help create a seamless and effective process for patients and staff, and help ensure a provider’s financial health. There are some key aspects every provider should consider in selecting software to help.

First, providers need to be able to manage 100% of all payments and payment types in one system—including cash and checks or electronic payments from bank accounts (ACH). Patient payment is becoming increasingly complex and managing payments holistically is critical to maximizing revenue and efficiency. If staff are bouncing from one system to another, or using an offline approach for payments such as cash or checks, the process breaks down.

Cash payments, in particular, are harder to track and facilitate. Oftentimes, staff use handwritten receipts or other manual processes. What happens? Cash payments don’t get recorded. Fees are posted to patient accounts and patients are billed again, creating a painful patient experience, and additional administrative work for staff. Similarly, patients are still using handwritten checks, most of which are sent through the mail. Providers need the ability to scan checks into the same system where card transactions are reported, not only for the convenience of remote deposit, but also to report those payments in the same manner as all other payments.

The technology should also consider the provider and the patient experience. Patient payment is an equal—and two-sided—coin. Both sides should be addressed equally to support effective patient payments. On the provider side, the tools a provider chooses must have effective workflow, strong management and reporting capabilities, and enable the provider to manage payments of all types.

On the patient side, the payment tool should enable consumers to pay the way they want to pay—cash, check, credit/debit/HSA card, or ACH. But providers must keep in mind it’s not just the method they use. It’s also the channel. Customers don’t want to leave their own personal technology at the door when they go to pay their medical bill. Today’s patient payment technology needs to meet that demand, delivering payment capabilities through online and mobile applications.

Another consideration is a function of the increasing proportion of responsibility. Patients are paying more out of pocket, and in many cases, needing payment plans to do so. Enabling patients to request payment plans immediately at the point-of-service, or automatically through a platform, helps ensure better reimbursement. Additionally, systematically tracking these plans via integrated software can help not only reduce the administrative burden of doing payment plans manually, but also reduce unpaid bills and support stronger revenue cycle management. Software that enables staff to set up a payment plan during registration or at the point-of-service based on eligibility and benefits, or enables the patient to request a payment online, helps ensure that the provider also has a good payment method on record, and can proactively and systematically work with patients to ensure payment.

Finally, the technology that the provider chooses to manage patient payments must make it easier for them to manage their revenue and administrative operations overall. That means managing every transaction, every payment, every plan, every refund in one system. This creates a repository, or a “single source of truth” for posting patient payments and reconciling deposits. Staff doesn’t need to search a cash ledger for cash payments, and a different system for checks: Everything is tied to where it was processed in the system. It should be associated with a patient ID and enable accurate reporting. This is not simply a convenience: A single system permits strong and credible revenue management, and greater confidence in billing.

Increases in patient payment responsibility have made it critical to have effective patient payment planning and administrative operations. Today, there is more at stake for providers than ever. To manage patient payment effectively and to support overall financial health and patient satisfaction, providers need to leverage the right technology—one that addresses today’s challenges and opportunities, and positions them well for the future.

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