The use of technology has been vital for the advancement of healthcare services in many different ways. However, there are still issues with patient-provider communication. Many patients are not receiving the best assistance from their providers about paying for their healthcare services. When the pandemic hit in March, millions of Americans lost access to their health insurance. This has left many with the inability to pay for certain healthcare services. According to the Chicago Policy Review, it is estimated that 10.1 million people will lose health insurance by the end of 2020 due to COVID-19.
With the loss of healthcare insurance, people are struggling to pay for healthcare services. This leads to patients not paying their bills on time and providers losing money for their business. Fortunately, there are many methods that providers can implement to make payment options easily accessible to patients, and to increase patients’ understanding of payment procedures. This article discusses how healthcare providers can use technology to improve patient collection communication.
- Text Messages
Given that 91% of American adults have a mobile phone, a text message is one of the best ways to reach patients. Text alerts remind patients that they have a bill due for their healthcare services. For example, a message may say, “You have a healthcare bill that is now available to view. Click here to view and pay your bill.” Providing a link within the text makes it easier for patients to more easily pay for their treatment immediately. Using text messages to alert patients about an outstanding payment allows providers to receive capital quickly, and at a lower cost.
- Healthcare Appointment Reminders
Providers can similarly call or text patients to remind them of an upcoming appointment. An automated message system significantly reduces the amount of time spent rescheduling or canceling patient appointments. Appointment reminders also allow providers to fill empty slots quickly, so other patients don’t miss out.
There are a variety of different appointment reminder softwares to choose from, including:
- Patient Portals
Health IT defines patient portals as “secure online website(s) that give patients convenient, 24-hour access to personal health information from anywhere with an Internet connection.” This is perhaps why many healthcare providers use patient portals, giving patients a one-stop-shop for everything they need to know about their healthcare.
On a patient portal, you will likely find:
- Previous or upcoming doctors’ appointments
- Lab results
- A summary of discharges
Patients are able to do the following when using a patient portal:
- Make appointment requests
- Request medication refills
- Update their contact or health insurance information
- Pay bills
- Ask questions
Source: Medline Plus
Much like sending text messages or using an automated message system, patient portals make it easier for both providers and patients to quickly and efficiently receive the information they need.
- Enhanced patient statements
Patients often need a detailed statement of the healthcare services they have received and what they owe. This is because, according to Ability Network, 70% of patients do not understand their medical bills. It is especially vital for the statement to be clear if the patient does not have any form of health insurance.
As mentioned by MailMyStatements, a patient statement should include their health insurance information, patient charge breakdown, and straightforward instructions for payment methods and options. Creating a comprehensive patient statement can significantly improve patient collection communication.
- Different Payment Options
Giving patients fewer payment options increases the number of bills owed to providers. While most offices only take cash, check, debit, or credit, ideally more options would be available. Apple Pay, Venmo, CashApp, and PayPal are just a few examples of other payment methods used by healthcare providers. These options must be advertised by providers on a multitude of platforms (in-office, text messages, emails, etc.) so the patient is aware of all the payment methods available to them.
Aside from alternative payment options, providers should now offer payment plans to patients, as well. According to Medical Economics, a doctor’s most significant challenge when collecting payment was a slow response from the patients. Having patients pay for their bills in increments increases the amount of funding secured by providers.
Now more than ever, patient collection communication between patients and healthcare providers needs to be effective and free-flowing. The current pandemic means the need for the patient-provider relationship to be healthy and well-grounded cannot be understated, given how many people have had changes in their health insurance coverage. Providers need to take the time to talk to patients about their needs in terms of communication, accessibility, and finances.