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29% of patient payments are submitted online at Therapeutic Associates “We try to make it just like you’re paying your cable bill,
Practices make online payments easy
Secure storage of credit card information to pay future bills; Live operator services to accept after-hours bill payment; Automatic credit card payment
In high demand: A consumer-grade experience
Brent Huber has worked in the field of healthcare revenue cycle management for more than 20 years, and he has observed how many patients’ ability to pay their bills has gotten harder and harder every year. Everyone has noticed that their deductibles are rising steadily and, in many cases, that their networks are becoming more constrained, he claims. “.
Huber, who is currently the director of revenue cycle at Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy, an operation with more than 90 clinics in the Pacific Northwest, says the trend is driving many patients to ask hard financial questions before they commit to ongoing care. In general, he says, more patients are acting like “consumers” when it comes to their healthcare, not only weighing the costs and benefits of potential treatment, but asking that the transactional aspects of their visit be similar to what they experience in other areas of their lives.
According to Huber, “from our perspective, that meant that were really attempting to work with patients so they can obtain the care they require and be able to afford it. For instance, when a patient makes an appointment, a staff member at the front desk will check the restrictions related to their insurance plan so they are aware of any up-front costs. The patient could then speak with their therapist about changing their treatment plan to include more at-home rehabilitation and fewer clinic visits if they believe those costs are excessive.
Finally, the practice has implemented a number of technological tools aimed at making the payment process as painless as possible. According to Huber, “We’re providing things like flexible payment plans, the choice to keep a credit card on file, and the ability to pay either through the patient portal or online, directly from an email.” Many of their patients now frequently use these tools, and they “seem to prefer them,” he continues. %22%2029%%20of%20patient%20payments%20are%20submitted%20online%20at%20Therapeutic%20Associates%20Physical%20Therapy
Far from being the only healthcare provider to adapt to meet consumer expectations, Therapeutic Associates More healthcare providers are attempting to provide patients with what they want: improved price and billing transparency, more freedom — through technology — to choose their method of payment. As healthcare costs have continued to rise and patient responsibility for those costs has increased as well.
One recent analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost half of all privately insured individuals are now enrolled in high-deductible plans. A separate study, by the Kaiser Family Foundation, revealed U.S. employer-sponsored insurance premiums for family coverage are approaching an average of nearly $19,000 per year. Perhaps not surprisingly, the shift to such plans is leading many patients to ask their providers for pricing information in advance of care. (President Trump recently signed an executive order requiring hospitals to disclose the prices they charge insurers). According to one report by the consulting firm Accenture, while only 11% of patients currently use prices to “shop around” for care, 91% say its important for them to know their out-of-pocket costs up front.
One medical practice that has invested in tools meant to enhance the consumer experience is Azalea Orthopedics, based in Tyler, Texas. Azalea serves a wide range of patients at its 10 clinics throughout the eastern part of the state, including what CEO Anthony Brooks describes as a “huge” Medicare population. “Most of our patients are computer savvy now, regardless of their generation,” he says. “Theyre doing research on Healthgrades, going to our website and our social platforms — theyre reading our blog and asking questions online.”
Brooks points out that Azalea is an elective practice, and many of its patients are worried about costs. They are interested in payment plan options that might make it easier for them to afford their treatment, and frequently they want to know what their insurance will cover. To check insurance eligibility, Azaleas staff uses an automated system, and “we do a lot of analysis around our estimates,” he says. They accept payments online, provide their clients with email statements, and recently implemented a card-on-file procedure. “We try to make it really simple and quick, just like when you pay your cable bill,” “.
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint how Azaleas collections have been affected by their billing and payment tools, Brooks claims they are saving money by sending fewer paper statements and spending less time handling remittances over the phone. Patient consumerism, he adds, seems to be good for business. And if we do our jobs properly, I believe it will continue to be positive. “.
Chris Hayhurst is a frequent contributor to athenahealths Knowledge Hub.
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