Derek Stein, RevSpring

Derek Stein,

Employing point-of-service collections can be a drastic cultural shift for healthcare organizations. Even the word “collections” remains taboo in some segments of the healthcare industry.

But in light of the financial pressures stemming from rising patient bad debt, providers must embrace the best practices for account resolution. And as the HFMA and ACA’s Patient Financial Communication Task Force points out, this includes laying the groundwork for collection success prior to service and discharge.

Beyond collecting payment

Yet, there is more to the story than growing concerns over patient bad debt. Health systems leading the industry in point-of-service initiatives have a much larger vision in mind.

Here are just a few reasons providers are embracing point-of-service patient engagement and how their efforts serve the best interests of their organization and the community they serve.

1. Future healthcare services – Health systems and solution providers alike can attest to the financial improvements realized through point-of-service payments. However, what tends to be overlooked is how financial viability contributes to the health of the surrounding community.

Marginally performing health systems will struggle to invest in the technology and clinical staff necessary to meet the future healthcare needs of their patients and communities. Whereas, health systems engaged in collection best practices, such as point-of-service account resolution, are often better positioned financially to make these upgrades.

2. Patient expectations – Patients want to know how much their care will cost them prior to services. In fact, around two-thirds of surveyed patients have stated that a clear estimate of out-of-pocket costs has a positive impact on their decision to use a provider.

Healthcare organizations implementing point-of-service collection solutions understand how this information meets patient expectations and improve patient loyalty.

3. Patient education – As outlined by the HFMA and ACA’s medical debt task force report, providers should be proactive in educating and engaging patients about their financial responsibilities. Ideally, this process starts during the early stages of the revenue cycle (prior to admission or at the point-of-service).

While some of these efforts are mandated under IRS 501(r) requirements, health systems implementing comprehensive patient engagement solutions are assuming the responsibility for educating patients sooner. Best-in-breed point-of-service solutions extend beyond simply collecting patient payment, and include features that allow health systems to do this.

For example, charity and propensity scoring helps providers segment their patient accounts and tailor the information being shared with patients. So, not only do patients understand what they owe at the time of service, but health systems can provide detailed options for account resolution based on each patient’s specific financial situation.

This type of patient advocacy on behalf of the health system works to empower patients, and as a result, enhances the overall healthcare experience.

Seeing the big picture

The sensitivity that still surrounds pre-service and point-of-service collections is merely a consequence of not seeing the bigger picture.

When done correctly, point-of-service collection is part of a larger, more comprehensive initiative. It allows healthcare organizations to improve patient engagement and the overall healthcare experience. It gives revenue cycle professionals the ability to boost cash flow and resolve account balances more efficiently – securing financial performance and the ability to invest in the future clinical and technological needs of their community.

Thus, overcoming the “moral barriers” to point-of-service collections does not require less empathy or compassion on behalf of healthcare executives. It simply requires an adjustment of perspective.

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