Are Your Office Billing Practices Creating a Negative Patient Experience?
Office billing and collections can create ill feelings between a practice and its patients. It can also be a point of contention for staff and doctors alike. Advances in technology have made life more convenient for us, our families, and our patients. Yet, we continue to use antiquated, confusing, and inconvenient methods for collecting payments from our patients. To improve the negative patient experience in our offices and take the sting out of patient finances, we should create clear expectations up front, be transparent when it comes to the value of care in our offices, and offer automatic payment options and affordable payment solutions.
A financial negative patient experience can prevent you from collecting on an outstanding balance and keep a patient from returning to your office. And, in many cases, licensure board complaints and audits are triggered by “fuzzy” financial policies. Sitting down with your patients to explain their financial responsibility in the office is an excellent way to prevent confusion and establish expectations. Clarifying the number of visits, what insurance will and will not cover, and presenting payment options that easily fit in their budgets, is the first step in eliminating confusion and letting patients feel in control of the decision-making process. It also lessens the likelihood that patients will feel buyer’s remorse once they leave your office.
Be honest about your fees.
Be direct when it comes to discussing the cost of care. These days, patients are demanding price transparency. Giving them the runaround is not going to cut it. Additionally, apologizing for the cost of care doesn’t help much either. When your fees are set at, or near, market value, it empowers you and your staff to confidently present the cost of care. Pair that with a solid clinical report of findings, and you have given your patient a reason to value the care you have recommended.
Be cautious when it comes to offering discounts in your practice. Special pricing, limited-time offers, and free services, not only de-value the services you provide but can land you in regulatory hot water. Discounts should only be offered when they are legal and compliant. And here is the important part. Compliant means the discounts do not violate rules or regulations by your licensure board, your provider agreements, your State Department of Insurance, Medicare and the Office of Inspector General.
You can worry about all of those often confusing and conflicting rules, or utilize the contractual network discount. This is the model used by all major insurance companies and discount medical plan organizations, which are regulated in most states. In March 2018, a chiropractor in Iowa who provided free electrical stimulation to his patients agreed to pay restitution of nearly $80,000 after an investigation found him guilty of violating the Anti-Kickback statute and, in turn, the False Claims Act. If he had used a DMPO to create contractual network pricing for modalities, he could have avoided this threat to his practice and still helped his patients have access to affordable healthcare.
Being flexible and open to new changes in your practice can go a long way to improve patient satisfaction, reducing collection headaches, increasing revenue, and attracting new patients. Implementing these strategies doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Do your homework and select the right partners for your practice. There are great companies that have been in business for a long time because they have done their due diligence. They can help you follow the rules while helping to streamline your practice with new innovations. Embrace the technology and convenience your patient’s demand, and they will return the favor.