To the average Joe, there are many confusing aspects about the medical industry, especially when it comes to medical billing. The billing process is foreign to most patients, and it is the last thing on their mind before or after a surgical procedure. Here are a few suggestions to prevent confusion by effectively relaying your staff’s medical billing knowledge to the patient.
- Designate your staff’s “Billing Advocate”
Helping others is second nature to many. If it’s not clear who this person is in your office, look for the individual who enjoys working with patients and is enthusiastic about understanding billing and compliance polices. They should also have the skill set to answer questions, explain the process, and diffuse disgruntled patients. By appointing a Billing Advocate, your organization will have a point of contact that can field questions regarding any billing issues that arise. Make sure this person is always up-to-date with and fully comprehends the most recent information concerning standard billing practices. The Billing Advocate can also be a reference point for compliance policies in your office.
- Set your advocate up for success
Encourage your Billing Advocate to be a leader for other billing staff in the office. They should look for areas of improvement within the office and create training based upon a prioritization of needs in the office. This could be done in a variety of ways such as webinars, conferences, etc.
- Break down the points of confusion
It’s important to break down the wall of medical billing confusion with patients. Taking extra time to explain the billing process can achieve just that. This could also be achieved by documenting how these points of confusion should be addressed. Different procedures and insurance result in different billing. Take anesthesia for example: many patients are confused when an anesthesia bill arrives in the mail separately from their surgery center or hospital bill. On top of that, there is commonly a line item for anesthesia drugs and equipment. It’s easy to see why a patient would be confused when they receive an anesthesia bill for services. Add to it the fact that anesthesia services are billed differently than other medical procedures, and you could be facing a potentially confused and disgruntled patient.
- Give advanced notice
A simple way your Billing Advocate can keep patients from getting overwhelmed is to set expectations with them at the beginning. For example, if they will not receive a bill until 3-4 weeks after their procedure, make sure that is communicated with them upon arrival. There are occasions when certain procedures aren’t covered by a patient’s health insurance. Providing that information ahead of time could save you from a difficult conversation with the patient down the road. Your billing advocate can also review the staff’s communication in regards to payment plans. This would let the patient know they have options in regards to their bill. As previously discussed in “A Profitable Patient Collection Strategy, Part 2”, consider the possibility of discounting upfront payments. The Billing Advocate should look for strategies like this and review the effectiveness of these strategies.
- “Red tape” and medical jargon
An important characteristic of your Billing Advocate is someone who can maintain a level of empathy. They should try and steer clear of using confusing jargon that may not make sense to the average person. Don’t allow patients to be privy to “red tape” or behind-the-scenes tasks regarding the billing process, such as Medicare/Medicaid issues or possible billing and coding errors. This will only convolute the process and create unnecessary confusion for the patient. The less you can add to their plate, the better.
A Billing Advocate will help your organization maintain a standard of how you address billing confusion into a positive relationship with the patient. As a leader of an organization or an individual within the billing staff that is looking for a way to shine, introducing the role of a Billing Advocate can improve patient satisfaction and patient collections.