How to talk about finances with your patients

The financial side of healthcare is often complicated and confusing. And when patients are dealing with paperwork, payers and payment structures — as well as out-of-pocket costs that are much higher than expected — it can mean delayed or missing payments for your practice.

To address this industry-wide issue, the Healthcare Financial Management Association recently released a set of guidelines for talking with patients about finances. In an effort to provide “consistency, clarity, and transparency,” these best practices tenant guarantor loans outline who should be involved in financial discussions, where and when the conversations should take place, and what should be discussed, as well as general guidelines for all kinds of patient financial communications.

A commitment to up-front communication can clear up confusion, build a relationship of trust with your patients, and get you paid sooner. Get started today by applying these five best practices:

1. Be sensitive and compassionate during any financial discussions with patients and always maintain patient privacy. Instruct your staff to not only address patients by their first names, but also make it clear that they are valuable to your practice.

2. Focus on finding a resolution and providing education. Face-to-face conversations are the most effective way to communicate with patients. But you could also create printed brochures and make them available in your waiting room, or set up a toll-free number that patients can use to receive assistance and information.

3. Train your staff how to use the best practices and provide them with standard language for common financial discussions. While it’s a good idea to have one or two team members take the lead on discussing financial details with patients, everyone on the staff should be educated regarding a patients’ payment options and costs, as well as how to best communicate them.

4. When delivering appointment reminders to patients, be sure to mention that a copay will be due at the time of the visit. You should also provide an estimate for the cost of the appointment, if you can. The key is to proactively communicate about costs as early in the process as possible. You might even consider collecting payments up front to ensure that your patients are aware of their costs and can make arrangements as needed, thereby reducing your risk of nonpayment.

5. Make it easy for patients to pay. Offer a variety of ways to submit payment — by mail, over the phone, in person, or through your patient portal — and clearly communicate about those options. Outline and publicize your policies, including your procedures for addressing prior balances, informing patients of their financial obligations, and implementing payment plans. Collecting payments in-house is typically more cost-effective than hiring a collection agency, and it’s definitely better for maintaining strong relationships with patients.

Communicating about finances up front — and often — may feel uncomfortable at first. Many doctors worry that talking about money takes the focus off the patient’s health. But being clear about your patients’ financial obligations will give them a sense of control and responsibility. They won’t be blindsided by their medical bills and can plan to make payments in a way that works for them.

 

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