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When you think about any business model, getting paid is a crucial piece, not an afterthought. Unfortunately, the healthcare industry hasn’t always been on the forefront of a workflow that worked for ensuring prompt payment. Think about it. For years, patients came into an office, received treatment, and left without being asked to make a payment. Statements would then be mailed to patients weeks later, and then the patients would write out a check and mail the payment back to the provider. It shouldn’t be surprising that patient collections have become such a major issue in healthcare with 44% of providers challenged by large patient balances in 2021 (Source: InstaMed 2021).
In addition to lack of automation, time and staffing continue to top the list as the major challenges that providers face in collecting patient balances. When a patient calls in to pay a bill, a staff member needs to be available to take the phone call and the payment. Many HMEs are understaffed as it is, and some calls last 5 to 10 minutes, which is time away from all the other tasks that employee needs to complete that day.
The bad news is this scenario isn’t as outdated as you might think. In fact, 75% of providers still use paper and manual processes for payment collection. The good news, however, is that modern-day technology and efficiencies related to collecting patient balances are at the ready to revamp the options for patients to make payments so that your cash flow is on the fast track.
Simple and sooner
If you’re looking for ways to simplify the process of collecting patient balances, automation is your answer – with the added benefit of allowing you to get paid faster.
- Online payments. An online bill pay site is one of the most important things that you can provide for your patients. If you don’t have this, you’re not only missing out on payments but you’re missing out on fast payments. I know that when I get a bill and there isn’t an online option to pay it, I set the bill to the side. A week or two can go by before realizing, ‘oh, shoot, I need to pay this bill.’ And that’s what happens to your patients. Most are well intentioned to pay; however, with no online option, they’re less likely to pay that bill on time.
With an online bill pay site, patients become extremely self-sufficient in managing their own account. They can go in and pay that bill anytime. And at Brightree, we’ve seen that it increases the number of patients who are paying on their first invoice. This is a huge advantage from a patient pay perspective because you’re not having to spend all the time, energy and investment of money to try to secure past due balances. Instead, you’re generating timely payments at the first touch point.
Patients can also go in and see payment history and even print out copies of current invoices or past ones that they’ve already paid. This not only saves the patient the time of having to call in but also saves your staff the time of fielding the call.
And another big bonus is that patients can save their credit card on file for future automatic payments and even set up automated payment plans. Our customers have had a lot of success with this convenient service that eliminates steps for patients and helps guarantee that you’re going to get your payment on time, every time.
- Inbound payment lines. Some patients still prefer to call in to a phone number to pay their bills, so automated payment lines that are open 24/7 give them that tried-and-true option with a modern twist. IVR payment lines provide prompts to guide patients through easy steps to submit the payment and then apply that payment to your billing system. This touchless technology provides an excellent return on investment for providers. In fact, on average, we’re seeing that our customers are collecting up to $21 per every $1 they spend on the system, and they’re saving approximately 10 hours of labor per month as well by reducing calls that their staff have to handle.
- Automated outbound calling. If a patient isn’t paying their past-due bills, the reminder process is automated, too. Rather than having a staff member make phone calls out to the patient, an automated dialer can do that for them. At Brightree, we offer this service in what we call Virtual Agent. Calls are automatically made to patients, triggered by where the patient is in the billing process, and the Virtual Agent can also collect payment from the patient.
We’ve seen our customers collect on average $9 per every $1 spent on the service. Since everything is automated, they’ve eliminated approximately 1,000 calls per month and the time savings averages about 13 hours per month because staff no longer need to make those reminder calls out to patients.
These technologies can also bring you softer benefits in terms of your patient satisfaction by providing patients with the consumer experience they’ve come to expect. Offering a payment line that’s open 24/7, for instance, allows patients to call in the evening after work or on weekends, and we’ve seen about 20% of payments on the payment lines for our customers are paid after hours.
Another factor to consider is this type of technology is easy to implement, generally in two to four weeks. We’ve had many providers ask us ‘how did we live without this?’ because the results happen so quickly. They’re getting paid sooner and more often with services like online payments, inbound payment lines and automated outbound calling that automate the steps in your process, eliminate manual intervention from your staff, and allow you to focus on serving your patients and growing the business.
(Actual results may vary.)
Peter Ingles Strategic Account Executive, Brightree Patient Collections
Peter Ingles is the Strategic Account Executive for Brightree Patient Collections, where he educates and equips providers with best practices to collect and retain patient pay balances. With almost a decade of experience in the private pay world, Peter has a passion for helping providers solve challenges and achieve optimal results in their billing processes.
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