You may not realize it, but there are several interesting resources available to you as a revenue cycle professional that will give more insight into your patient population.
1) Know your readability
The first tool is a readability score calculator. In a perfect world, you want your patient communication is easy to read as possible. Under the new IRS 501r regulations, hospitals are strongly encouraged to use plain language whenever possible to communicate with patients. However, it can be difficult to determine how easy to understand, or readable, your communications may be. This is where free online tools that measure your readability come in handy.
One example of a free online readability calculator is readability-score.com. You can copy and paste the text of any patient communication into this online tool and it will tell you the average grade-school reading level. In the example below, an average delinquent notice was scored at a 12th grade reading level. It is recommended that your hospital communications score at a ninth grade reading level or below to be considered “easy to read.”
2) Understand literacy
If you aren’t sure what the average reading level is for your local community, then you should check its literacy rate. There are several free tools online that can help you do this. Two websites that you can use include American Factfinder and the State Literacy Estimator. In general, if more than 10% of residents in your area did not complete the ninth-grade, or the illiteracy rate in your county is over 10%, you will likely need to employ alternate patient communication strategies. In other words, no matter how easy your communication is to read, a large percent of you population is unable to read it.
In these situations, you should consider voice strategies. The simplest to implement is an IVR strategy in which your hospital makes outbound patient phone calls in addition to sending a printed statement.
3) Reach transient populations
Finally, you should consider patient populations that do not have a permanent address. In these situations, it does not matter how good your printed communication is, because there is no physical address to which you can send it. To combat this, hospitals needs to ensure that any patient intake process asks for a mobile phone as well as a physical address. In situations where there is a mobile phone, but no physical address, you should plan a strategy to send patient communication via SMS messaging or IVR.