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There's a seismic shift underway in the healthcare sector when it comes to who ends up footing the bill for patient care. Up until recently, insurers bore the brunt of the costs incurred by patients. Today, the payment landscape is shifting as a greater burden is placed on patients. Consequently, the shift of financial responsibility from insurance companies to individuals changes the payment and collection landscape significantly. With individuals now on the hook for medical expenses, it's taking longer and costing more to collect from consumers versus insurance companies.

Today's tech-savvy consumers expect companies in the healthcare sector to offer payment processes that mirror the highly-refined approaches offered by leading online retailers such as Amazon©. Yet too often, a provider's payment portal involves overly complex or confusing processes that place an excessive administrative burden on the consumer. Here are some tips that may help your business enhance its payments process.

1. Document the Entire Consumer Payment Process as It Currently Stands

Convoluted payment processes often stand in the way of consumers intent on making a payment. Create a detailed flowchart that captures every step a consumer might follow to access, review and pay their bill online. Identify, re-engineer or remove steps which appear unnecessary, inefficient or confusing.

2. Test the Revised Process Using Real Consumers

Conduct a usability test of the revised payment process with participants who are representative of your end users. Capture the feedback from such sessions and determine the potential enhancements to the existing process. 

3. Leverage Technology

In today's digital age, where many consumers possess a smartphone, tablet or computer, healthcare providers must provide patients with the ability to pay via mobile or a computer. If you currently lack the ability to collect payments online, take the time to screen third-party solutions to help you do so. Make sure a proposed solution is scalable and able to help your organization comply with HIPAA and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).

4. Identify, Track and Report Performance Metrics

Maximizing cash flow depends on your organization's ability to capture and analyze the activity at each step of the payment process. Working with your IT department, establish performance metrics to monitor consumer payment activity. For example, track how long it takes a consumer to complete the payment process, including the steps that take the longest to complete or create the highest abandonment rates.

5. Assess the Experience of Patient Billing Personnel

Collecting payments from an individual versus an insurance company requires a different set of employee skills. It also requires more billing specialists as the number of individuals billed far outweighs the handful of insurance companies most medical providers receive payments from. In order to position the billing department for success, identify the individuals within the department who possess the experience and skills to collect from individual consumers, and forecast how many patient billing specialists you might need on staff in the future.

6. Benchmark Your Billing Department's Performance

Optimizing the patient billing process depends on your ability to identify and address inefficiencies and pain points. In addition to monitoring the performance of the payment process, compare how it stakes up against billing departments within the industry. To that end, subscribe to healthcare-related websites and associations as well as content generated by vendors focused on the healthcare sector. Attending industry conferences is a great way to meet billing professionals with the goal being to discuss best practices and emerging trends.

7. Be Prepared to Offer Patients Financing Options

Despite your best efforts to ensure patients pay their bills on time, some may lack the financial wherewithal to do so. In those circumstances, it may make sense to provide the patient with the means of financing their outstanding balance. Make sure to provide billing specialists with the appropriate tools and tactics to assess a patient's financial health and the ability to establish payment plans quickly, with minimal customer inconvenience.

8. Be on the Lookout for Enhancements to the Payment Process

As new technologies arrive and consumer preferences evolve, there's an opportunity to revisit how your organization administers its patient billing and collection processes. In addition to using a critical eye to uncover ways to simplify and refine your existing processes, take the time to analyze and learn how companies in other industries interact and collect amounts due from customers. As the responsibility for payment moves from insurers to individuals, healthcare providers should consider evolving their billing departments accordingly. Allowing patients to pay for their healthcare costs in a way that is most convenient to them not only improves the ability to collect outstanding bills, it may also improve patient satisfaction with your practice.

This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual tax or financial advice. KeyBank does not provide legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

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