Increasing Collections and Patient Satisfaction

June 25, 2014
Laura Joszt

No one wants to discuss finances with sick or injured patients. However, the sooner that conversation occurs, the easier it is for patients to stomach the costs, according to a speaker at the HFMA's national meeting in Las Vegas.

No one wants to discuss finances with sick or injured patients. However, the sooner that conversation occurs, the easier it is for patients to stomach the costs, according to a speaker at the HFMA’s national meeting in Las Vegas.

R. Travis Mendenhall, FHMFA, manager of patient accounts at Gwinnett Hospital System, highlighted his hospital system’s best practices for not only increasing patient collections, but also patient satisfaction.

“I think we need to make patients ready for their bill,” he said. “I think we need to catch them right up front and tell them early and often what is happening. That’s how you increase their satisfaction.”

He added that the longer a patient has to let the costs of a procedure or hospital stay sink in, the more time they have to consider their options for payment. Preferably, the hospital system discusses costs prior to being admitted to the hospital.

“We wanted to give them as accurate an estimate upfront as we could possibly provide, and we wanted that estimate to come from their payer so it’s defensible,” he said.

What providers need to be careful of is providing inaccurate estimates or ones that do not come from their insurance company. An incorrect estimate will only frustrate patients and drive them away from the hospital in the future, Mendenhall said.

To gather payments while patients are in the hospital, there are financial counselors with billing and collections training who rotate through the hospital with iPads equipped to swipe credit cards right in the patient’s room.

Although financial discussions and asking for payment can be an uncomfortable topic, Mendenhall said the right attitude can make it easier. If the staff is empathetic and sympathetic about the fact that they have to collect money, it can go a long way to putting patients at ease and not offending anyone. Plus, the hospital system’s team has a proven script to follow.

According to Mendenhall, Gwinnett’s top 5 best practices were:

  1. Implement solutions to automate estimation/eligibility/presumptive charity
  2. Implement a patient loyalty program
  3. Implement/optimize patient payment portal
  4. Implement/optimize provider payment portal
  5. Automate all patient payment cash posting