With patients bearing increasing responsibility for their medical expenses, hospitals need to regard them as informed customers, and consider collections in terms of a business model. Since the revenue cycle involves so many points of contact with consumers, it's critical that operations are patient-centered from beginning to end.
Too often in healthcare, the focus has been on collecting payment after the patient has received care. But the revenue cycle begins before services are rendered. To optimize the claims process, hospitals should collect demographics and verify insurance coverage when patients schedule an admission or procedure. Be sure that registration is complete and accurate.
This is also a good time to create patient profiles listing their preferred method of communication and payment. Educate patients-- through digital channels and over the phone-- about what to bring, and what to expect, when anticipating a hospital stay. As early as possible, estimate costs and help patients understand their financial obligations. A TransUnion survey revealed that 75% of patients were surprised by the bills they received, which made them less likely to fulfill their out-of-pocket responsibilities.
Expand Payment Options
Bills should be easy to understand, and hospitals should create multiple opportunities and channels for payment. Using metrics to determine which patients are more likely to pay on-time and up-front allows staff to design billing strategies that target prompt payers. Revenue-management departments can help struggling patients by setting up payment plans that both parties agree on. More than ever, consumers expect transparency. Industry leaders note that, when explaining costs, staff should come across as financial counselors rather than debt-collectors.
Foster Patient Engagement
To establish a patient-friendly revenue cycle, regularly seek patient feedback, per their preferred communication medium. Do your best to give patients what they want-- transparency, timeliness, certainty, and convenience. Allow them to connect with providers without jumping through hoops. Streamline scheduling and registration by using software that integrates data across different applications. (Patients often complain that they have to present the same information multiple times). If they need to schedule more than one procedure at the same facility, set up appointments on the same day, if possible.
You may also need to think beyond portals. While this platform is helpful for those who visit providers regularly, patients who do not seek care for long periods are less likely to engage with a portal. Instead, allow them to make payments and schedule appointments through other means, such as mobile apps.
Don't overlook the importance of educating staff about the perils of lost revenue. To create a patient-friendly revenue cycle, coordinate workflows so that backend and front-end employees don't have to contend with redundant tasks that could otherwise be done digitally. Make sure they understand their respective roles and are trained to interact with patients to ensure the best customer service possible. They also need to be able to anticipate and address problems with the revenue cycle. Equip your team with tools that streamline operations, and regularly ask for feedback about what's working and where there's room for improvement.
As mentioned earlier, technology plays a pivotal role in optimizing revenue cycles. Improved software solutions and cloud computing allow data to be co nveyed more accurately, and processes to be completed more quickly. Today's software, for example, autopopulates forms and flags errors, drastically reducing the number of claims that have to be resubmitted. Technology also comes with real-time reporting features, so you can readily evaluate processes and make improvements when needed.
A patient-friendly revenue cycle minimizes lost revenue and encourages customer loyalty.