One of the best definitions of “public relations” we’ve heard is “doing a good job and getting credit for it.” Healthcare providers every day are making a tremendous difference in people’s lives.

At the same time hospitals, physician practices, and other providers are kicked around in the media, portrayed as organizations and individuals of avarice and greed.

Our healthcare system at times appears to be built upon frustration, and not just patients, but everyone, from the provider–clinical and back office–to partners, including payers and debt collectors. Much of that frustration is based around the fact that each party does not truly understand the other.

Lately, though, when accusatory fingers are pointed, especially in the media, they are aimed at providers. What is worse is that our patients believe them. And providers seem helpless to do anything about it.

A recent experiment in western New York state to obtain patient consent may actually be better applied to explain to patients the medical billing process and their financial responsibility.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology developed an “eConsent” process where patients can use electronic tablets to learn about and consent to “sharing and access of health information with third parties for treatment, payment, and healthcare operation purposes.”

The eConsent videos and tablet interface describe how patient medical information is stored in a healthcare information exchange organization (HIE) where it can be accessed efficiently by those who need it. Patients then use the tablet to check off how much information they wish to share and then affix an electronic signature.

This video describes a quick overview of the process:

Most healthcare providers put this information on a one- or two-page form that the patient signs in the waiting room. As we reviewed the extensive videos and electronic tools, our first thought, why isn’t this approach being tested for the area of greatest challenge between providers and patients today, the medical billing process.

Possibly getting consent from patients to share medical information is a tremendous challenge, but it pales in comparison to getting patients to pay their bills. Imagine this technology being used to explain to patients the billing process, their financial responsibility, their rights as consumers of healthcare, the financial assistance opportunities, and their options for payment. At the end the patient would sign their consent, in this case that they understand their options and what will be required of them, financially.

John Owen is the Director of Client Development at DECA Financial Services in Fishers, Indiana. Check out other great content in the DECA Blog–Bottom Line Results Matter–on

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