Increasing Collections through Patient Financial Discussions

June 23, 2014
Laura Joszt

With out-of-pocket spending expected to be $411 billion by 2020, upfront financial conversations with patients are more important than ever, according to a presentation at HFMA's national meeting in Las Vegas.

With out-of-pocket spending currently $329 billion and expected to increase to $411 billion by 2020, upfront financial conversations with patients are becoming more important than ever, according to a presentation at Healthcare Financial Management Association’s National Meeting in Las Vegas.

Terry Rappuhn, CPA, HFMA Patient Friendly Billing Project Leader, and Mark Rukavina, president of Community Health Advisors, LLC, highlighted best practices for discussing financial obligations with patients and how to increase collections.

One of the challenges facing the healthcare industry is newly insured patients, many of whom are not entirely confident in knowing what the terms “premium” and “deductible” mean.

“There’s going to be a great need to do education for patients to understand their coverage and coverage options,” Rukavina said.

Another issue remains cost transparency. When the patient knows the costs of a procedure and what his or her financial obligation will be ahead of time, the patient and the hospital can work together to set up a payment plan. Doing so increases the chances of being able to collect the money, but also increases a patient’s satisfaction.

“If you take care of your patient, you take care of yourself, too—the health system in most cases,” Rappuhn said.

She explained hospitals and health systems can set up meetings with the patient before the procedure and set a monthly payment plan at a realistic price level for patient’s financial situation. Patients who think they cannot pay it, might not bother to try.

In addition to setting up repayment plans and laying out the costs in advance, providers can offer incentives to lower the amount owed. Rappuhn and Rukavina can the examples of setting up an automatic payment from a checking account and giving a 10% discount off the total cost or forgiving the last payment after the patient has successfully paid the others.

Lastly, Rappuhn stressed that “it’s a new world,” and it will be necessary to keep a close eye on things by analyzing payments and insurance coverage after Jan. 1, 2014.

“Right now, the past is not a predictor of the current state and future,” she said. “You simply got to stay on top of it real time.”