Healthcare Technology Featured Article

November 09, 2016

Patient Payment Headaches? Technology is the Solution

When you choose to dine at a restaurant, you know upon walking into the establishment that you will be paying for the food and service you receive. The same concept is true whether you are shopping for groceries, taking a dance or art class, or buying a new family pet: Goods + Service = Payment.

So, why is this very well-known, tried and true methodology not adopted when visiting a doctor’s office or clinic? You see the doctor. The doctor prescribes you medication or treatment. The doctor aids you in your ailment. Goods + Services = Payment.

For many patients, however, they’re skipping out on the “equals Payment” part of the equation. Health professional offices and clinics are finding it challenging to collect payment from patients. Yes, they will pay their $40-plus deductible due at the time of service, but the remaining after-insurance balance is not being paid.

More and more health offices are utilizing new technology such as patient portals and financial management software to help solve their bad-debt woes.

Patient Portal

Healthcare offices are employing patient portals. These online hubs enable patients to view their lab results, fill out paperwork, update personal information, send requests for prescription refills, schedule appointments, communicate with the clinic’s staff and conveniently pay their medical bills.

Through their patient portals, they will be able to see all invoices that they currently need to pay for, as well as payments they have already made. Patients wanting to pay their bills immediately may want to just pay while still at the healthcare office, however, as the portals will post invoices only after they have been to accounts receivable and then billed through the insurance.

The idea of online payments is attractive to patients, simply due to its sheer convenience. If a patient visits the clinic regularly, then they are also able to securely save their payment information in the system. Anything that will help the patient get through the payment process as quickly and easily as possible will ensure that the payments are actually being made.

Financial Management Program

Front-desk workers are typically the employees who collect payment from the patients. Because patients are not choosing to pay for their services on their own, many clinics are switching from the “Would you like to pay your bill today” suggestion to “This is your total for today. How would you like to pay for that?” polite command.

Opting for a front-desk collection is the best option for healthcare professionals and their businesses. If left up to the customer, clinics, urgent care facilities and offices are finding that they are sending more and more bills to collection agencies. This is a hassle for the healthcare business and a potential nightmare for the patients.

If offices decide to switch to up-front collection, investing in a financial management program is a must, as it will aid in the frustrating processes of billing and insurance payouts. The program, which can be a software, system or cloud-based operation, does the majority of the calculations for the clinic when it comes to out-of-pocket expense. It can do this because all of the patient’s information is electronically stored, including their insurance information.

If a patient is seen for a stomach ailment, for example, the financial management system will take what the doctor charges for the office visit, run it against the insurance’s database for known payouts, and calculate the patient’s bill due that same day.

To streamline the process for the clinic and the patient even further, the system, like the patient portal, will securely store credit card, Flexible Spending Account (FSA) cards, and bank information, so patients won’t need to show their cards or write a check at each visit.

Unlike the patient portal, however, the total out-of-pocket expense will be estimated and calculated immediately. This type of management operation will make customers – because that’s what patients are – more likely to choose a clinic or urgent care facility over a large hospital, unless needing emergency services from those with BLS certification.

Integrating payment operations with technology will help smooth the lines between business and service, which, in turn, will make the entire clinical experience as pleasant as it possibly can be.

Edited by Alicia Young
By Special Guest
Rick Delgado, Freelance Writer ,

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