Patients’ expectations for how they engage with and pay their healthcare providers have changed. In 2020, a growing number of providers embraced telemedicine to meet patients where they are for clinical care, whether it’s on a tablet or smartphone. Meanwhile, for Americans who lost their job during the pandemic, cost has led many to delay necessary medical care. Many are making sure basic necessities like food and rent are paid for before seeking medical services. This means health systems should rethink their patient collections strategy.

Let’s examine what Patientco defines as an effective patient collections strategy in 2020 and beyond.

3 Components of a Modern Patient Collections Strategy

1. Seamless Financial Care at Every Step

A solid patient collections strategy requires seamless coordination across multiple departments. This should include every team member from scheduling to pre-service check-in, all the way to the back office. Consider the financial care offered throughout the patient journey today. What happens if a patient makes a payment online and then later calls the business office with a question about their balance? Do staff members have a complete view of the patient’s activity across the entire system to offer the right support? More often than not, that answer is no. This makes it difficult for team members to financially care for patients and offer the right support.  

Instead, revenue cycle teams need an integrated platform that connects each touchpoint in the revenue cycle. This ensures patients always receive superior financial care, whether they prefer online self-service options, assistance from staff or a combination of both. As a result, patient collections improve, along with patient satisfaction. 

2. Greater Price Transparency

Our 2020 survey report revealed that 25% of patients have delayed necessary treatment due to concerns about out-of-pocket costs and as a result, their conditions worsened. Offering greater price transparency builds trust with patients and allows your team to address any of their cost concerns upfront. This prevents many patients from skipping or delaying care.

To accomplish this, your organization needs a platform that facilitates coordination between scheduling, registration and patient access. Look for technology that can ingest the appropriate data from these front-end revenue cycle workflows and automate the generation of price estimates for high-volume, low-complexity procedures. This ensures more patients receive a price estimate prior to care. And when payment options are integrated with estimates, patient collections improve.

Additionally, track whether patients engage with their estimate. With engagement tracking, your entire team stays informed. They can identify which patients viewed their payment options and made a payment and which patients viewed their price estimate without completing a payment. This means financial counselors can identify which patients they should call to discuss financial options, improving patient collections and offering timely support to the patients who need it most.

3. Empathy for Patients’ Financial Concerns

Now is the time to empathize with patients in the financial realm as we have in the clinical. Provide affordable, flexible self-service payment options earlier and remove the need for phone calls and staff intervention. Patients may be hesitant to admit they can’t afford their medical bill to an RCM team member, so let them sign up for affordable options online, including before treatment. Keep in mind, many consumers are familiar with online payment plans and financing options, which are available through many retailers today. In 2019 alone, adoption of digital interest-free payment plan programs grew from 24% of internet users in Q1 to 30% in Q3, according to data from CivicScience.

Another way to show patients empathy is by suspending collection calls for 30 to 60 days. For patients who lost their source of income, this pause can give them time to recover financially. While this may seem counterintuitive to your patient collections strategy, this tactic can actually pay off in the long run. By giving patients time to secure their finances, they will soon be in a better position to pay off their medical expenses.

A Future-Proof Patient Collections Strategy

Empowering patients to navigate their own financial decisions as easily as possible will be transformative. However, this requires a modern and compassionate patient collections strategy. Patients need to understand what they owe, why they owe it and what their available payment options are. 

Discover what else your organization should consider to future-proof its patient collections strategy in my recent interview with PYMNTS.com.