By Dr. Greg Grillo
When patients step into our offices, we become just one recipient of their healthcare dollars. Patients have become the #3 payers of medical bills behind Medicare and Medicaid. And higher deductibles and climbing out-of-pocket costs compete for family budgets that are trying to cover more with less.
Cash flow depends on patients who promptly pay for their services, but many practices rely on outdated payment models. We must design patient-friendly experiences to reduce account receivable balances and increase collections. By removing barriers, we’ll elevate patient satisfaction and see more on the bottom line. Plus, patients notice businesses that help them overcome financial obstacles. That positive vibe leads to strong online reviews and more referrals–every part of the patient journey ties into the next.
Up tosay they’d switch providers for a better payment experience, and the pressure to deliver will only increase. Millennials and GenX are 28% more likely to change than Baby Boomers. The time to refine this vital piece of the patient journey is now. Here are five ways to set up a win-win with your patient payment systems:
1. Present and Discuss Before Treatment
We think we do this well, but healthcare falls flat helping patients prepare for associated costs. For example, in 2019,said they were surprised by a medical bill. Within the problem lies a significant opportunity. Our practices can flip the obstacle on its head by educating, estimating, and explaining the costs associated with treatment plans better than other providers.
- Review your website and update detailed information surrounding expectations, payment options, and dental insurance.
- Include a link on your website that allows patients to apply for programs like CareCredit.
- Ensure every patient leaves their appointment with a printed or emailed treatment plan that includes costs and estimated insurance benefits.
- Provide staff with the tools they need by keeping a crystal-clear policy about patient payments.
2. Make Payments Effortless At Each Visit
Medical practices struggle to change patient payment behavior, and it hurts their cash flow. Patients areonce they leave a clinic. Dental practices that collect payments at time-of-service tend to have lower accounts receivable balances than those who let patients walk out the door without paying. Improving time-of-service collections takes more than asking patients to pull out their VISA card, but it starts there. So, encourage them to make that move.
- Offer a discount for payment at time-of-service, typically 5%. The costs associated with billing and collecting usually end up amounting to more than that.
- Don’t discount the power of scripting, especially with new staff members. Simple changes in verbiage from “DO you want to pay?” to “HOW do you want to pay?” can make a significant difference.
- Include extended payment option plans for patients to consider. More importantly, make the application a breeze with a mobile tablet your financial coordinator can hand over for instant action.
- If patients aren’t making a payment, send them out the door with a statement and clear direction on how they can pay when they get home.
3. Offer Online Payments
Consumers pay for everything online. Think of the last time you couldn’t pay a bill by logging into your account. If you can remember back that far, what impression did it leave? Whether it’s with your mobile carrier or cable provider, you expect to pay that way. More thanwith healthcare providers, including bill payment options.
Our patients come to us with the same mentality–if they could. In other words, they’re disappointed if they can’t. Offering this capability sends a message about our brand, and it can vastly improve cash flow.
- Set up online payments with a secure, trusted vendor that integrates with your practice software.
- Add a clear option on your website for your patients to access online payments.
- Put a notice on your statements with instructions on how to make online payments.
- Use to send an informational email about the availability and benefits of online payments.
4. Step It Up With Mobile Payments
Patients want mobile-friendly options that are accessible through digital devices. Patients also appreciate finding extra features, like the ability to review past statements and store payment methods in the palm of their hand. In fact, 80% of patients prefer online or mobile platforms, so give more patients what they want.
- Make sure you highlight mobile-friendly options in all of your communications. Once patients try it, they never look back.
- , so try a text campaign that introduces patients to the new mobile option.
- Use a payment system that ties directly to your bank account. When a patient receives a text-to-pay notification from Legwork Pay on their phone and settles a bill, you receive payment within 24-48 hours.
5. Create an Intuitive Experience for Patients and Staff
Amazon, Netflix, and Airbnb have created user experiences that shape the expectations patients bring to our practices. And as innovative brands continue to invest in refining online interactions, the discernment will grow. A dental practice that delivers a design-driven payment process meets user experience expectations and accelerates patient payments.
Consumers’ willingness to make a paymentwhen they encounter a user-friendly service. In an instant-gratification society, attention spans are short. If they find the payment process complicated or frustrating, patients will push paying us further down their list of priorities.
- Review every step of the patient journey. Ask your staff to do the same. Make sure payment expectations and methods are clearly expressed and visible.
- Offer an online payment portal as a central tool for patients and make sure they know about it. Legwork Pay can have a secure, intuitive gateway running for you right away.
- Use Legwork Campaigns to introduce online payments, interest-free payment options, and other enhancements for your patients.
- Design a custom survey in that gathers feedback from your patients about payment options, expectations, and perceptions. Measure and adjust.
Not Just About Money
Steady cash flow lowers stress, increases team efficiency, and elevates patient satisfaction. When our practices are healthy, we are too. We can focus on exceptional clinical care and invest in the technology that serves patients even better. We’re able to pay our staff more, save for retirement, and sleep better at night. Legwork tools support us with integrated solutions that create first-class service for our patients.