Provider | July 22, 2020

Identifying a Patient Collections Solution for COVID-19 and Beyond

Priority one for all healthcare organizations is to ensure the safety and care of employees and patients during this unprecedented health crisis. But, COVID-19 has also brought a financial tsunami to the doorstep of every healthcare organization, and identifying the longer-term financial impacts has only just begun.

Providers significantly increased investments in protective gear and equipment while revenue plummeted due to canceled procedures and surgeries. In most areas of the country, hospital beds and physician offices are still empty, and communities are anxious about both their clinical and financial health. What the “new normal” will look like no one knows, but healthcare organizations need to be financially strong to serve their patients and employees, and patients need to know that access to care they can afford is still a safe and viable option.

Many organizations have put in place short term strategies for patient collections, including implementing short term payment plans, suspending billing for 30 or 60 days, forgiving a monthly payment, putting a hold on placing accounts with bad debt agencies, and suspending any legal action normally taken against those with delinquent accounts. These efforts show the compassion and understanding of healthcare providers, but they are not viable long term.

As healthcare organizations brace and plan for the “new normal,” evaluating a comprehensive patient financing solution should be of high priority. The right partner has the autonomy, as well as the financial and operational heft to quickly advance cash to organizations so they can reinvest in their healthcare systems and communities, all while ensuring patients are able to get, and pay for, the care they need through long-term payment plan options.

Now, more than ever, it is important to partner with a comprehensive, patient-friendly solution that engages all patients and can be implemented quickly with minimal disruption, allowing healthcare organizations to maximize patient collections and cash while helping patients navigate the financial challenges today and in the future.

Comprehensive Solution That Drives Significant Cash

A comprehensive patient financing solution is one that meets every patient where they are and offers healthcare organizations multiple strategies to collect significant new cash to invest in the system and community.

In an ideal scenario, a patient who knows they cannot pay their balance in full asks about payment options and agrees to pay their balance through the available payment plan program offered. This works for patients who are ready and able to make payment arrangements while they are engaged with a provider staff member. However, programs that rely exclusively on provider personnel to educate and engage patients miss out on significant cash due to the realities of these healthcare financial conversations.

While on paper these discussions sound straightforward, the reality is patients walk into financial discussions distracted, scared, and uneducated about their insurance coverage and what they could owe. Many patients are also skeptical of estimates.

Additionally, provider staff can be too overwhelmed with other duties to make these conversations a priority. As a result, most patients do not make payment plan arrangements at the time of service and are unlikely to ask about them once they are removed from the clinical experience. If a patient financing solution is only available when a patient is talking to provider staff, the cash and collection needs of healthcare organizations will not be met.

A comprehensive, best-in-class patient financing program is not only available to patients at the front end of the clinical and collection process, but also includes a pre-bad debt solution that engages patients who have moved out of the provider’s sphere of influence and have been unresponsive to traditional collection efforts.

Pre-bad debt programs are not dependent on incoming patient inquiries or outreach by provider staff, but engage directly with patients who likely believe they have no payment options and will be sent to collections. Because most patients who need help do not make payment arrangements early, it is the pre-bad debt solution that historically drives the most patient engagement, and the most yield, for healthcare organizations that leverage a comprehensive patient financing solution.

Along with the front end and pre-bad debt programs, a comprehensive solution also includes payment plans and aged accounts receivables (A/R) conversions. A good partner can quickly convert a percentage of active A/R to cash and should ensure balances are immediately funded and paid.

Patient-Friendly Solution That Drives Engagement and Loyalty

With the combination of increased out-of-pocket costs and economic uncertainty, patients are facing challenging financial times. It is important that a financing partner provides a patient-friendly solution that makes it easier and more convenient for patients to pay their medical bills.

Some patient financing companies charge interest on patient payment plans, making it more difficult for patients to fulfill their financial obligations. Charging interest can be detrimental to both patient collections and program satisfaction.

Interest bearing solutions will have fewer enrollments because not all patients will qualify. But even if patients do qualify, the additional costs associated with the solutions may turn some patients away. Low enrollment coupled with the additional burden of interest for patients leads to increased defaults and lower provider yield.

An interest-free program means every patient qualifies and there is no impact on patient credit scores. More patients get the payment help they need, which increases overall collections. Because collections are much higher in an interest-free program, the provider should also see a demonstrable ROI, net of any fees.

Additionally, it is important that the patient financing partner can prove performance and will support it with contractual guarantees. A strong partner will have no problem guaranteeing financial performance.

In addition to an interest-free solution with extended payment options, convenient and compassionate customer service is important, especially as many patients struggle with the anxiety of the unknown.

Healthcare organizations should look for a partner that has a call center exclusive to healthcare due to its unique requirements and is still fully staffed and operating efficiently under “safer at home” regulations implemented during the COVID-19 crisis. Convenient payment options either online, by phone, or by mail ensure patients can stay safe while still meeting their financial obligations.

Easy to Implement Solution

In the midst of an unprecedented crisis, it can be daunting to consider adding a new solution or process. Patient financing partners should deliver a solution that meets all regulatory requirements and offers a high-quality consumer experience.

An experienced partner makes implementation quick and easy, working within the current workflow and with existing platforms and partners, all while reducing provider workload. It is critical to evaluate partners based on their healthcare and consumer finance experiences, so they do not overburden staff and resources.

A successful implementation and partnership hinges on finding a company that:

  • Has experience working with all HIS platforms and leverages existing processes and workflows to drive a seamless financial and operational experience for staff and patients
  • Offers a comprehensive marketing program tailored to the organization and community and works with an organization’s marketing department to ensure brand guidelines and communication standards are strictly adhered to
  • Provides onsite and virtual training during implementation and throughout the partnership to all departments that interact with the patient
  • Employs designated support personnel for ongoing staff and patient needs, and provides regular performance reports and recommendations to improve financial and patient satisfaction ROI
  • Is confident in their solution and willing to share risk through contractual guarantees or different pricing strategies