Customer service, or Patient service in Medical Practices is gathering more prominence. This focus creates confusion and a sense of confusion among practice owners and providers.
Does Patient-Centered service mean not focusing on patient collections? Will patients be unhappy with you? Will you lose patients if you ask for an outstanding balance?
Data has shown the exact opposite. Engaging patients in meaningful financial conversation actually creates a positive image of your practice and it’s patient service.
I know you work very hard to take care of your patients and in fact, coach your staff to do the same. Somehow, conversation related to money is left out and avoided at all costs. Everyone feels it inappropriate to talk about money when a patient is in pain. Ironically, if you don’t engage in a comprehensive conversation with a patient including financial terms portrays the wrong image of your practice. Practices that engage in a holistic approach of 360 conversations including money show that you actually care about the overall well-being of a patient.
Consider this all to common scenario:
- You fail to collect copay and/or outstanding balances at the front desk.
- Patient receives a bill which is generally delayed because you wait for the insurance to pay their part first. By this time, a patient had forgotten about the visit.
- When they get the bill after a month or two, they are surprised for two reasons. One, they did not think they owed anything, and second, the staff did not mention that they would get a bill after some time – or better, provide some kind of estimate.
- This means the patient did not ‘budget’ for this and spent money elsewhere.
- This leads to frustration – they may call their health plan which generally does not help. This leads to frustration. They take it out on – you guessed it, your practice – the front desk person, the biller, and sometimes, even the provider.
We all hate dealing with uncertainty. Spending a little time talking to patients about money goes a long way in patient satisfaction and in the process, keeping your patient aging or patient account receivables low.
In summary, you should engage in and alert patients about statements, and their financial responsibility and even educate them a bit about how their insurance plan works if possible. This is one of the best services you can do for them to maintain a healthy relationship.