Dealing with the Growing Shift to Patient Payments04.09.2009
Higher Unemployment and Greater Numbers of Uninsured Mean Healthcare Providers Must Find Better Ways to Avoid Bad Debt and Ensure Adequate Cash Flow
The sudden increase in numbers of uninsured patients means that those who walk through a healthcare provider’s front door must assume greater financial responsibility for their treatment. It’s essential that providers help their clientele through this difficult period—not only so patients can avoid the difficult choice between treatment and burdensome debt, but also to ensure sufficient liquidity and cash flow for the practice.
At Harmony HIT, we’re helping practices through this challenge by offering a suite of Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) and financial services solutions with features that help increase upfront patient payments, decrease cases of lost or overdue billing, and improve cash flow.
One of the most important strategies practices can institute is to guarantee payment before services are rendered, through more flexible patient payment options and upfront verification of any insurance coverage that might be available. To ensure that any available coverage is found, providers should employ an RCM system that verifies coverage automatically, before services are performed. The best automated systems can save up to 75% in labor costs over verifications that are handled by phone.
Providers should also have systems that allow patient payment via cash, personal check, debit and/or credit cards. Systems that support automated installment payment options enable providers to offer patients even greater flexibility in meeting their growing responsibility for medical costs. Handling a greater volume of patient payments can increase the risk of fraud and theft, so it is vital that systems enhance a provider’s internal control over the processing of patient financial transactions.
Finally, patient billing should be clear, simple and accurate. Patient billing solutions that automate the process of forwarding statements when patients move, and that integrate patient statements with online bill pay options, offer providers the best opportunity to maximize patient remittance.
A Complete RCM Solution
Other ways exist to help practices cope with patient payment, however. By improving overall cash flow management, as well as the efficiency of claims submitted for insured patients, providers are better equipped to weather a surge in patient-paid services.
Chief among the important steps to take is better claims management. By employing a well-run electronic claims clearinghouse, erroneous and/or lost claims—two of the most common reasons for poor cash flow—can be dramatically reduced or eliminated altogether. Electronic Remittance Advice, or ERA, can also automate the costly, labor intensive task of processing and posting payments from paper Explanation of Benefits (EOBs).
These practices, combined with steps that facilitate easier patient payment, can make a powerful difference in a provider’s viability during difficult economic times. Contact Harmony Healthcare IT for more information on how to get started.