In today’s healthcare landscape, patients are paying more out-of-pocket for services than ever before. The numbers of people with high deductible health plans and those who are uninsured have risen; often leaving patients with large medical bills and providers struggling to collect the money they are owed.
Furthermore, many people simply do not understand how the medical billing process works. According to the Instamed Trends in Healthcare Payments Eighth Annual Report 2017, 70% of consumers are confused by their medical bills, and only 9% of people could define the four basic insurance concepts (premium, deductible, co-insurance, and out of pocket maximum).
It is imperative that healthcare providers do their part to improve the billing experience for their patients because positive patient experience and timely payments go hand-in-hand. Someone who is satisfied with their billing experience is more likely to pay their bill in full than someone who is dissatisfied with their billing experience. Therefore, providers who focus on making the billing experience easy are more likely to get paid.
There is clearly a knowledge gap when it comes to medical payments, and radiologists are in a position to close it by doing their part to educate their patients. For example, radiologists in a hospital-based setting can help speed up the payment process by educating their patients at the time of service about the types of bills they will receive when that service is complete.
Patients are generally not as familiar with a radiologist as they would be with a patient-facing provider like their primary care physician, so those managing radiology practices should not assume that they understand how the services are billed. If a patient receives an imaging service from a private practice based at a hospital, he or she will typically receive two bills: one bill for the technical component, or use of the facility and machinery, and one bill for the professional component, or doctor’s fee for reading the results. It is very unlikely that patients, especially first-time ones, know this information up front.
The HAP call center receives calls from patients each day asking why they are receiving two medical bills and why they were not informed by the hospital that they would be receiving a separate bill. Each month, over 25% of patients call only to ask why they received two bills. Inquires like these can be avoided by letting patients know at the time of service that they will be receiving two separate bills, and explaining the difference between professional and technical billing. Patient experience is greatly influenced by positive interactions with office staff, and these individuals are in a prime position to educate patients. Whether it is displayed in signage or explained in person at check in, offering billing information to the patient at the time of service can alleviate any confusion later on in the billing process and speed up payment.
Radiology practices can also point their patients to the internet as a way to educate themselves about radiology procedures, insurance coverage, and cost. For example, resources like radiologyinfo.org and the Patient and Family Resources page of American College of Radiology (ACR) website provide patients with practical information about radiology services. Practices can also make insurance and billing information available on their own websites, making it clear which plans are accepted at that particular facility. As many practices are moving towards online patient scheduling and secure payment portals, it is a natural next step to make educational information available online, as well. This way, patients are able to obtain the information they need at a time and place convenient for them. Technology is a great patient collections tool that we will discuss further in an upcoming post.
Today’s healthcare landscape is challenging for most patients to understand. With a new emphasis on positive patient experience, providers need to do what they can to make sure their patients leave the office healthy and happy. By taking the time to educate patients about the medical billing process before their service, radiologists can help eliminate confusion and clear the path for expedited payments. Subscribe to this blog for more articles about improving the patient billing and payment experience.