4 Big Patient Payment Challenges for 2014 (with solutions!)

By Bird Blitch, CEO 

piggybank250

Happy 2014 from Patientco!  2013 brought all kinds of changes, challenges, and opportunities and this year looks to be no different.  In fact, given the impact of the Affordable Care Act and CMS meaningful use initiatives, 2014 looks to see more change than the world’s largest piggy bank.

Let’s take a look at 4 challenges healthcare providers will face in the new year along with 4 ways to face them with confidence:

Challenge #1: Increase in Bad Debt

Reason: As the ACA goes into full effect, providers will see an increase in high deductible health plans, as well as an influx of “underinsured” patients.  Therefore, provider revenue will depend more on patient payments, but it’s going to be even harder to manage them.  Is there a way to manage this increased workload more effectively without spending more to get more?

Solution: Evaluate your cost to collect.  How could finding new efficiencies and reducing costs impact your bottom line?  Do you use an EBO or collections agency when you could use a cloud-based technology platform to do it in-house for less?  Look for ways to automate your back office to save even more money.

Challenge #2: Healthcare will move towards a consumer-centric model

Reason: Because patients face more financial responsibility for their healthcare in 2014, they will be more engaged throughout the whole process, especially the billing process.  Providers will see patients with high deductible or private pay plans closely scrutinizing their medical bills in order to catch errors and dispute charges.

Solution: Take a good hard look at your patient statement.  You send thousands of them monthly; does it represent your brand well? Does it help the patient understand their charges and how to pay in the clearest way possible? If not, it’s probably time to make a change. Currently, a significant percent of patients struggle to understand their medical bills which results in negative feelings toward their provider and often non-payment.  Does your statement clearly state how much is owed and why?  Be sure your statement guides patients through how to pay or how to ask a question using your secure messaging system if they don’t understand what they are being asked to pay.

Challenge #3: Providers must capture and secure market share

Reason: Given the increasing costs of delivering healthcare coupled with the technology investments required by CMS, providers will have to rely on increased patient volume to remain financially stable.  This means competition just like in any industry and patient satisfaction will be more important than ever.

Solution: Implement patient satisfaction initiatives.  While delivering superior care is critical, patient satisfaction is often not given the scrutiny it deserves.  Look for opportunities to delight your patients, especially during the unpleasant parts.  The very last touch you have with them, the billing segment, is often the part that needs the most improvement.

Challenge #4:  Billing staff will face the transition to ICD-10 coding.

Reason: Though the CMS deadline was delayed, many providers are already executing the switch to ICD-10 coding.  This long and tedious process will not only require staff time but could also cause financial turbulence during the transition.

Solution: Reduce the number of calls to your billing office by utilizing your secure messaging system.  Automate your back office to cut the time spent consolidating and posting payments.  Don’t force yourself to cut corners educating your staff due to time constraints.

So as 2014 begins, build a proactive plan to face these challenges head on.  If you need help, we’re here.  Cheers to a great year!