Analytics, portals can help collections

November 18, 2014 in Medical Technology

As more new patients come into the healthcare system, savvy providers are seeing opportunities to develop better relationships with the hope that it will translate to greater bill collection success.

“The best strategy to boost relationships with patients is to begin the financial conversation at the earliest appropriate opportunity,” said Sandra Wolfskill, director, healthcare finance policy, revenue cycle MAP, HFMA.

[See also: Revenue cycle poised for big rethinking]

“For scheduled patients, that means explaining prices and patient financial obligations prior to service,” she added. “For all other patients, once the provider knows the patient will have a financial responsibility for the current visit or service, start the conversation and give the patient information and options.”

Many providers now offer patient portals instead of the traditional mailed statement and return envelope option.

[See also: For portals, speak patients' language]

Wolfskill suggested hospitals employ analytical tools to identify the propensity of self-pay patients to pay what they owe.

“Likewise, employ analytical tools to stratify the self-pay receivables to identify the propensity to pay for these accounts,” she said. “Focus work activities where needed, recognizing that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not necessarily the most effective nor the best use of resources approach. Use a variety of tools and offer electronic tools to patients for paying bills.”

According to Andrew Adams, senior manager at the Advisory Healthcare practice, Ernst Young, the process is ripe for innovation for both patients and providers alike.

“It’s an area that could use some innovation,” Adams said. “I think that you’ll see some increased training of individuals who deal with these issues, and learning from other industries on how to provide an outstanding service.”

Adams said hospitals are looking to streamline the payment process as much as possible by making it self-service to allow outpatients to pay on their own time and how they want to do it.

“[Hospitals will] employ more technology to make interaction between patient and provider easier and less costly,” said Wolfskill. “More smartphone applications to streamline the process will probably come online as applications are developed for the commercial world and migrated into the healthcare arena.”

David Hampshire, managing director, Navigant Healthcare, agrees and said he sees less and less human touch in the process.

“I believe there is improvement on the horizon from a technology perspective; i.e. kiosks, iPads to improve the patient experience as they fill out the paperwork,” Hampshire said.

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