Thanks to increasing deductibles, coinsurance, and the rising rate of uninsured Americans, the financial burden of healthcare has fallen primarily to the patient. And data now shows that 55% of patient financial responsibilities are never recovered. Coincidence? We don’t think so. But it’s not the end of the road. Repositioning some of your staff into pre-service financial counseling can increase both collections and patient satisfaction.
The Key Role of Financial Counseling
The main role of a financial counselor is to educate patients on their insurance benefits and healthcare’s billing processes. These financial discussions outline what the patient can expect prior to treatment, copays, coinsurance, deductibles, and what exactly “out-of-pocket” means for the patient’s financial responsibility.
When these discussions occur prior to treatment, it takes the burden off your staff and your bottom line. Finding someone on your team who is well-versed in financial counseling and knowledgeable about the billing process is of utmost importance, as it ensures that patients are more informed, more satisfied, and more likely to pay their bills. (And that sounds like an all-around win, if you ask us.)
But employees are expensive. We get it.
That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re getting the most out of your technology so you can refocus patient access staff into these new roles. A good financial counseling operation will determine propensity to pay, verify insurance and registration information, and increase self-pay collections by opening billing discussions with patients that may not have otherwise been explored.
A pre-service financial discussion estimates patient responsibility and provides avenues to pay ahead of time. The patient can then decide to pay at the time of service or set up a payment plan, and you can assess said patient’s ability (and propensity) to pay, make a charitable care determination, or offer early-pay incentive discounts.
While it may seem like a lot of work to have these discussions with patients prior to service, it’s actually cheaper to collect this way. Otherwise, you waste money and time filing, calling, and sending statements. In fact, a recent Advisory Board study indicates that the typical 350-bed hospital may be leaving $22 million on the table by not addressing self-pay revenue.
If a patient is informed about the financial process, has options in paying for care, and has someone they know to go to with any questions they might have, they are less likely to throw the bill into a stack and forget about it. A good financial counseling program can increase the satisfaction of your staff and your patients, increase your collection rates, and decrease expenses on the back end of the revenue cycle.
Staffing is already tough enough as it is, without hiring for yet another position.
That’s where automation comes in.
An automated patient estimation application can arm your financial counselors with accurate, real-time estimates based on the patient’s current level of coverage, so counselors can focus on engaging patients rather than calculating costs.
Consumers want an accurate understanding of what they’ll owe for services before they’re rendered so they can plan financially. Prepare them for their out-of-pocket responsibility and they’ll be more likely to visit you instead of a competitor. Moreover, the earlier you begin the collection process, the higher the likelihood that you’ll actually collect. And this process begins with providing patients with an accurate picture of… you guessed it… their out-of-pocket responsibility and payment options.
The Wrap Up
The role of the financial counselor in supporting patient payment should not be undervalued. And to best support these team members in engaging patients, you should invest in automated estimation solutions so their valuable time isn’t spent calculating costs but rather spent engaging patients in financial responsibility and planning discussions.
Armed with clear, accurate information about how much they owe, your patients can better plan for their medical needs, ultimately reducing your bad debt and charity write-offs and increasing your captured pre-service revenue.