Still, even as pre-service estimates get more reliable, patients are simply not used to paying for healthcare in advance. Without new and extensive training, asking scheduling and pre-registration staff to take on this responsibility may end up angering patients and frustrating the staff themselves.
Instead, providers should empower patients by extending automated affordable options, like payment plans, to pre-service estimates. Building on the same strengths that have made self-activation of automated payment plans so widespread, providers can tailor pre-service installments to meet patients where they are—and adjust as needed to changing financial circumstances, additional procedures, and any applicable relief funding.
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The most effective platforms for pre-service collection will:
● Gather the most recent, relevant data to understand patients’ capacity to pay,
● Personalize their payment plan offers to fit patients’ budgets,
● Extend these affordable options to the patient via text or email (or, if preferred, in real-time in person or over the phone), and
● Adjust automatically after insurers submit their portion of the cost
Enhancing engagement when patients need it most
Fully informing and engaging patients around their health and wellbeing has long been associated with better health outcomes, and more recent studies have shown that the same holds for patients’ financial experience. Pre-service estimates and payment plans can enhance patient satisfaction by removing the sting of a surprise bill and giving the patient some control over the payment process. As described above, the most sophisticated platforms can also flag patients for whom payment will simply be infeasible, thus enabling the provider organization to reach out and work with them directly to provide compassionate relief.
This type of responsiveness can be implemented on a broader scale via rules-based payment plan solutions, which allow the provider organization to set the limits of the plan terms and amounts and then offer different patients tailored options within those limits. Adjustable automated systems are especially useful in unexpected situations like the one brought on by COVID-19, as the rules can be temporarily lowered to ease the financial burden on patients, then restored when it makes sense to do so.
Working together is the new normal
Patient engagement takes on new meaning during a crisis. Provider organizations must meet patients where they are, empower them with accurate information and personalized payment options, and find ways to make necessary care affordable. Doing so now—in a time of great need—lays important groundwork for future collaboration as we all navigate our way out of this pandemic.