Making Payments a Win-Win Situation

Financial Counseling Tips
Financial counseling tips sure to help your bottom line and your patients' health

The unstable economy and fundamental shifts in how healthcare services are paid have left many providers and institutions with outstanding patient accounts and increasing bad debt. The effects are being felt throughout the healthcare industry as patients are increasingly unable to pay for their care, often through no fault of their own.

MSNBC reported in December of 2008 that of a survey of more than 700 hospitals across America, two thirds had seen overall admissions and elective procedures fall while half had seen a moderate to significant jump in non-paying patients. The financial shortfalls these organizations see often end up hindering upgrades in the equipment and facilities needed to give patients the absolute best care possible.

So how can your healthcare business beat this trend and reduce the amount of money lost on under payments and non-payments while everyone is feeling the crunch? Emdeon has some tips to keep you ahead:

• Be up-front: It's more important than ever for your staff to consult with self-pay patients before the delivery of care. Talking with patients early helps keep everyone on the same page, and it allows the patient to focus on recovery following a healthcare procedure instead of making difficult financial decisions. Some facilities even realize a clear rise in patient satisfaction, as reported in HFMA's Strategies for Reducing Bad Debt.

• Focus on your people: Experienced staff who understand the complicated healthcare payment process are invaluable when it comes to communicating with patients. If financial counselors do not have prompt and quick answers that are sensitive to each patient's unique situation, it is difficult to get the cooperation needed to secure information as well as payment. Increasing training and reducing turnover are key steps you can take to improve your payment performance.

• The simpler, the better: If providers are being told to think of patients as consumers who can shop and choose where they go for care, then it's important to learn a few things from the retail industry. Specifically, the easier the process, the more a consumer is likely to comply. Facilities across the country are offering discounts for prompt payments, convenient online billing and payment and flexible payment plans that don't stretch patients beyond their means; all of these methods can benefit both providers and patients.

• Put information to work for you: Technology available including financial counseling solutions can share critical information across multiple departments and facilities so that your staff can make the correct decisions that lead directly to more payments. From organizing and confirming the accuracy of patient information to scouring charity care and government programs for reimbursement options, these tools can improve your financial performance in areas even the best manual procedures can't touch.

Providers and decision makers at every level of the healthcare industry are recognizing that as consumerism continues to rise and more payment responsibilities shift to patients, the way the business of healthcare is conducted needs to change. Today's financial counseling is all about providing options, keeping it simple for patients and finding avenues of payment in any place possible. With the right staff, sound procedures and the right solutions almost any facility can see an increase in their collections, which in the long run allows for better delivery of care. That's a win-win for everyone.

To find out more information and see how Emdeon can help increase your efficiency and profitability, call 877.EMDEON.6 (877.363.3666).