I recently stumbled upon an interesting blog post Nine Ways For Hospitals To Slow The PR Bleeding on the site: http://www.theflipsidecommunications.com. As I read through these suggestions, four of the topics really “hit home”.
A physician’s reputation in both the community and with their peers can be influenced by their approach to patient invoicing. See how you can adopt simple strategies to ensure your patient’s trust and understanding of the components of their financial responsibilities.
When I walk into a “free-standing” physician’s office, I expect a bill from the provider I “see” for the service rendered. When being provided medical services in an outpatient facility, as a hospital outpatient, or inpatient, things can be a lot less clear. Medical services can be performed by “unseen” professionals: anesthesiologists, radiologists, pathologists, etc. There is typically a facility charge in addition to the professional charge. Patients do not always put this together, and it is important if you are scheduling the services to give a detailed explanation of who will be billing for the services rendered. This helps to keep your patient from being surprised when the bills start coming in and prevents those dreaded accusatory phone calls.
We are all human and can make mistakes. These mistakes can go both ways by billing services that did not occur or by missing some that did. Even our EHR software with automated charge capture capability, since used by fallible humans, can contain honest errors. Internally audit all charges before they are submitted to the payer for accuracy and proper medical documentation. You will never have to “defend” your claims to the insurance company and will be completely confident when any questions arise from the patient about “if” the services were truly provided.
Utilize medical billing software, such as Iridium Suite, that produces a clear and concise reconciliation of each service provided in an itemized fashion. Send invoices on a regular schedule, ideally once a month, which allows patients the chance to match up services to their insurance explanation of benefits and if necessary make monthly payments on large balances they cannot pay in full.
A typical healthy person utilizes very little of their insurance benefits and has little experience deciphering a medical bill, so they may require additional assistance from your staff. Insure you have available someone that has full access to the details of the account and a thorough understanding of the services rendered so that any questions from your patient can be answered promptly, correctly and with patience and compassion. Your ideal contact person should be able to turn the complicated terminology and processes of billing into a something an everyday person can understand. This is the drawback to utilizing an “outsourced” type call center, those persons are typically ill-equipped to answer anything more that the most general of inquiries.
If you have a physically well patient, don’t leave unnecessary scars over billing issues. They may be satisfied with their medical care, but an unsavory experience regarding their bill can prevent future referrals from that patient or even other physicians if your office gets a reputation for bad billing practices. Not to mention, one call from a patient to a payer can send up that red flag that triggers an audit.