By Dustin Wuest, Principal Consultant of Healthcare Services for InfoWorks
Imagine this. You visit your primary care physician for a routine checkup, but they find something abnormal that requires lab work and imaging. The imaging center is right down the street, and the lab is connected to the primary care office. No big deal, just about two-three hours of appointments.
A week later, you receive your results, and everything looks great. You ask for a copy of your results, to which you are asked for a fax number. That’s a topic for another day.
A few weeks later, you receive your bill from the physician’s office, and it’s less than you expected. What a relief! However, you soon receive the second bill from the lab and the third bill from the imaging company. Interesting seeing that all three are affiliated with the same health system. The relief turns into anxiety as you start to feel overwhelmed. Oh, and you can’t help but notice that each of them in bold font says, “The balance on your account is due now.” You now have three different bills from three different payment systems, each with unique logins and account numbers, all apparently due immediately.
This happens every day to patients in the U.S. It is unnecessary, and it’s worsening the patient experience. Would you want to be treated this way? No other industry in this country is allowed to operate this way.
Healthcare facilities can drastically improve the patient experience by implementing consolidated billing practices.
From attending an appointment to paying the bill, the entire patient experience matters. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 93% of patients satisfied with billing practices are also satisfied with clinical experiences.
The primary goal of consolidated billing practices is to make paying more manageable for the patient by merging payments into one bill from one collector. Numerous healthcare facilities have already succeeded in implementing these practices, from large health systems to independent physician groups.
I’ve shared three key considerations for companies as they contemplate how to implement consolidated billing practices.
Technology and Feedback
Selecting the right technology is an important decision. This system will house patient bills and manage the bill collecting process. Choose a system that is easy for the patient to navigate and offers the right features for your organization’s needs. If your vendor cannot create a single, coordinated bill and split payments for each party involved, you need a new vendor.
When choosing your technology vendor, it is important to consider how this technology can also streamline your patient feedback process. Consider a system that efficiently gathers comments by making it an optional last step of the payment process. Making a survey easily accessible and convenient is likely to increase your responses. Survey responses give helpful insight into how patients feel about your new billing practices.
The technology lays the foundation for your consolidated billing practices. Do you need to enhance your patients’ experiences? Are you looking for a more streamlined billing process? Think about your needs and spend time researching the right technology to enhance your patient’s experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s healthcare or auto care, the customer’s experience has to be the number one consideration.
Ownership of the Data
An efficient consolidated billing platform unlocks the potential for better recording and financial outcomes while providing you with ownership of payment data.
Owning this data and having easy access to it will help track the impact of your new system. For example, you could compare how long it took the patient to begin paying the bill with the new system versus the old. You can also track how much your collection has increased and how much your accounts receivable have gone down. According to Revcycle Intelligence, a Texas healthcare system that implemented consolidated billing saw accounts receivable decrease from 14% to 2% in one year.
Access to this data will allow your organization to continue to make changes and see the immediate impact of those changes in billing, allowing you to stay the course or change directions when needed.
Lastly, consider the impact of consolidated practices on knowledge share. When you centralize into one billing system, you begin to uncover process issues that are causing your patients to jump through hoops for quality care.
Maybe you see a complete picture of how many people you send out from your office to get blood drawn for labs and realize you could streamline patient flow by having a lab in your office instead.
Perhaps you see a pattern in treatments for an ailment and decide to consolidate those treatments into a package pricing system, saving time on your end and money for the patient.
As healthcare practices seek to provide quality care for every generation, they must create a system that simplifies bill pay for the Medicare population, Gen Z and ages in between, evolving as the technology around them is changing.
Dustin Wuest is a Principal Consultant of Healthcare Services for InfoWorks (www.infoworks-tn.com), a national consulting firm headquartered in Nashville that specializes in technology, analytics and management solutions. Dustin has over fifteen years of experience serving in software product management, strategy, analytics and sales in healthcare and personal finance.
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