Four strategies to optimize patient collections

Experian Health products referenced in this blog post:

Healthcare may be historically more recession-resistant that other industries, but the COVID-19 pandemic has left many providers hurting financially, as many patients struggle to pay their bills. Patient collections were already a challenge, with declining Medicaid coverage and rising co-pay obligations putting patients on the hook for more of their healthcare expenses. Now, with millions of Americans out of work and missing out on employer-sponsored insurance, providers are being forced to adapt their collections processes to fit this unstable insurance landscape, or risk losing more dollars to bad debt.

Four key strategies can help providers seal the cracks in patient collections and stem the surge in uncompensated care. With compassionate processes that treat each patient as an individual, providers can use data and automation for more efficient healthcare charity screening, find missing coverage and identify both propensity to pay and the best financial pathway to minimize the chances of bills going unpaid.

1. Screen for charity eligibility early and often

Nearly 4 in 10 unemployed Americans have been without work for more than 27 weeks – the most since November 2013. As unemployment persists and benefits dwindle for many, more patients may be eligible for charitable support to cover their healthcare costs. Running presumptive healthcare charity screening as part of the collections workflow can help providers identify those who should be getting extra support.

Patient Financial Clearance runs automated checks when a patient registers, so individuals can be automatically enrolled as soon as eligibility is confirmed. Checks are repeated throughout the patient journey, should their financial situation changes.

Caye Mauney, Patient Access Director for Palo Pinto General Hospital, says the automated checks can confirm eligibility within just three seconds. This saves a huge amount of time for her team, while giving patients financial clarity without worrying waits: “All the information we need is now at our fingertips. The patient no longer needs to bring in check stubs or go back to a former employer to ask for information. It’s been a game changer.”

2. Find forgotten coverage quickly 

Automation can help providers cut uncompensated care by finding missing and forgotten coverage, even when patient case mix and payer rules are constantly changing. Healthcare organizations that quickly uncover previously unidentified coverage are often are paid sooner and avoid the collections challenges of self-pay receivables.

Experian Health’s Coverage Discovery uses best practices around search, historical information, multiple proprietary data sources and demographic validation to find previously unknown coverage. It continuously scans for insurance coverage to maximize reimbursements and minimize accounts sent to collections and to charity.

Learn from Banner Health how Coverage Discovery has helped the organization find 30+% unidentified coverage earlier in the revenue cycle.

Register for the webinar here.

3. Improve the collections experience with compassionate billing

Speedy coverage checks are just one way to give patients peace of mind when it comes to medical expenses. The collections process is often opaque and intimidating, hitting patients when they’re already stressed and vulnerable. The more compassion that can be built in, the better the patient financial experience will be. Unpaid bills go down, while patient loyalty goes up.

Transparent pricing, data-driven payment plans, personalized communications, and easy ways to pay all contribute to a positive patient financial experience. A good place to start is with Collections Optimization Manager, which allows providers to segment, support and monitor patients throughout the entire collections cycle. By connecting to a host of other patient-facing tools, this helps members feel taken care of from start to finish.

4. Use data to put patients on best payment pathway

None of these strategies will work without reliable, accurate data. Healthcare organizations traditionally rely on demographic and behavioral datasets, but this leaves gaps in how much is known about patients’ financial situations. Incorporating credit data can add a layer of valuable insights about a patient’s propensity to pay, so collections resources can be directed to the appropriate accounts. If you know a patient has a missed mortgage payment or delinquent loans, you can help them find alternative coverage and redirect them to a better payment pathway.

Experian Health combines demographic, behavioral and credit data so you can help your members navigate their health expenses with confidence. The result? Better financial health for both your members and your organization.

Find out more about how to optimize patient collections, whatever 2021 has in store, in our recent eBook, Recession-proof your revenue cycle. 

Download now.

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2021 Patient Experience Predictions

As 2020 draws to a close and headlines hint that the end might finally be in sight for the pandemic, the healthcare industry is considering COVID-19’s legacy. The sudden shift to contactless care, financial consequences of widespread social distancing measures and changing expectations of the patient experience have upended the world of healthcare and health IT – but which changes are here to stay? And what do these changes mean for the patient experience in 2021?

We asked several leaders across Experian Health for their predictions in the areas of patient access, collections, and identity management, and here is a preview of what they had to say:

“Patients will choose providers that give them control over their healthcare experience”

Patients have more opportunity today than ever before to manage their healthcare experience from the comfort of their own home, whether that be through patient portals, online self-scheduling and registration or online payment tools.

As lockdowns and social distancing prevented patients from presenting in person, providers were forced to offer patients with more options for self-service. Unsurprisingly, this was a move a lot of patients have been waiting for and many welcomed this new technology with open arms.

Jason Kressel, senior vice president of consumer products and analytics at Experian Health, expects that, as patients become more accustomed to this level of self-service, more than half of consumers will change providers in favor of one that offers premium digital healthcare services:

“Providers who can meet patients where they are—through web-based services and via their mobile devices—will have the most success with retaining and attracting patients.”

Online self-scheduling can put patients in the driver seat while also avoiding unnecessary contact while many remain cautious about on-site visits. With access issues removed, the patient experience will improve, in turn improving health outcomes (and providers’ bottom lines!).

“With hospital finances on shaky ground, collections will be a top priority for survival”

As COVID-related unemployment leads to an unstable insurance landscape, many providers are worried about maintaining effective collections processes, and they cannot afford to spend time chasing payments. Guarding against uncompensated care and tightening up the collections process will be essential.

Automated collections software can help collections teams focus their efforts on patients who are most likely to pay, while also helping patients manage their financial obligations with as little stress as possible. Providers can also quickly determine which patients qualify for financial assistance, helping them get them on the right payment pathway for their circumstance without delay. Not only will this provide a much better patient financial experience, it’ll prevent “lost coverage” and allow providers to collect a larger portion of dollars owed.

“The surge in portal usage means providers need to watch out for fraudsters”

What does the rapid growth in portal uptake mean for data security? The speedy rollout of telehealth and other digital services has exposed security concerns for many providers, who fear a rise in fraudulent activity in 2021 as cybercriminals sniff out opportunities to steal patient data.

To protect patient information and avoid costly reputational damage, providers must adopt more sophisticated identity management solutions. By combining cutting edge identity proofing, risk-based authentication and knowledge-based questions, providers can more easily verify a patient’s identity when they log on to their portal, greatly eliminating the risk of fraud.

Interested in learning more about other trends that could affect the patient experience moving forward?

View the Experian Health 2021 Patient Experience Forecast.

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Improving patient intake during COVID-19 starts with patient experience upgrades

Despite the majority of elective procedures
being up and running again, patients are still keeping their distance. Nearly
half of Americans
say they or a family member have delayed care since the
beginning of the pandemic, while visits to the emergency room and calls to 911
have dropped
significantly
. Patients are avoiding care, but it’s not for the reason
you’d expect.

Beyond obvious worries about catching and
spreading the virus, a second concern is becoming apparent: patients are
fearful of the potential cost of medical care. With so many furloughed, laid
off or losing their insurance coverage, medical care has become unaffordable for millions of Americans. It’s especially tough for
those who fall into the coverage
gap
, where their income is too high to grant access to Medicaid coverage,
but too low to be caught by the ACA safety net.

If patients continue to delay care, it’s
only a matter of time before their symptoms worsen, leading to more complex and
expensive treatment or even risking their lives. For the hospitals and health
systems with revenue levels at a record low, encouraging patients to return for
routine care is a matter for their own financial survival too.

The answer lies in making sure patients feel safe and comfortable both when they come in for care, and when they look at their financial responsibilities.

5 ways to ease the return to routine care

1. Reassure patients about safety measures before and during their visit

Patients are understandably anxious about
what their visit is going to be like. Will they have their temperature taken?
What should they do if they have symptoms of the virus? Will seating areas be
spaced out and sanitized? Pre-visit communications and proactive
information on arrival will help them feel comfortable and eliminate the shock
factor of seeing more stringent infection control measures.

2. Minimize unnecessary contact by shifting patient intake online

From online scheduling and
pre-registration to telehealth and contactless payment, there are many ways to
keep face-to-face interactions to a minimum. Not only will this help reduce the
spread of the virus, it’ll make the whole patient experience more convenient
for patients. Exploring a virtual and automated patient intake experience can also free up staff to work on other tasks, thus also protecting the
organization’s bottom line through efficiency savings.

3. Encourage patients back to care with automated outreach campaigns

With so much uncertainty at the moment,
patients may be unsure if it’s even appropriate to come in for routine care.
Use automated outreach to prompt them to
book appointments and schedule follow up care. A digital scheduling platform
can help you set up text-based outreach campaigns, to reassure patients that
it’s safe (and essential!) to come in for any overdue care – without placing
any undue burden on your call center.

4. Provide price transparency before and at the point of service

With healthcare experts pointing to financial
worries as a major barrier to care, anything providers can do to improve the
patient financial experience is an advantage. Price transparency is the first step.
When patients have clear and accessible payment estimates upfront, they can
plan accordingly and/or seek financial assistance as quickly as possible,
reducing the risk of non-payment.

5. Screen for charity care eligibility with faster automated checks

Once those payment estimates have been
generated, the next step is to confirm whether the patient is eligible for financial support, in the event that they’re unable to cover their bill. Checking eligibility
for charity assistance is a time-suck for patient collections teams, but with
access to the right datasets, it’s a perfect candidate for automation.

These steps become even more urgent as
providers face the prospect of a ‘twindemic’ – or a surge in COVID-19 cases
colliding with flu season.
By avoiding delays to care, patients can avoid the need for more serious and
expensive treatment further down the line, when hospitals are likely to be
under even greater pressures.

Contact us to find out more about how our
data-driven, automated patient intake
solutions
can help make your patients feel as safe and
comfortable as possible, both physically and financially.

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