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Price Transparency: What Does it Have to Do With Patient Engagement?

priceThere’s something to be said for transparency and knowing where you stand. As patients shoulder larger and larger portions of their healthcare costs, financial patient engagement is an increasingly important part of practices’ collections strategy. By being up-front with patients regarding how much they’ll owe and how they’ll pay, your practice can change the attitude so prevalent among patients in today’s era of high-deductible health plans: “I’ll ignore it because I don’t understand it.”

Traditionally, patients haven’t been programmed to pay until post-service because they’re unsure of what they’ll owe. Consequently, the Explanation of Benefits (EOB) arrives in the mail; the patient looks at it for the first time, has sticker shock and puts it in the junk drawer.

By making price transparency a cornerstone of your collections strategy, you can engage with patients and give them the information they need to understand their payment responsibility, make informed decisions in the course of their care, determine method of payment, and if necessary, set up an automated payment plan. This new level of engagement requires a paradigm shift and new behaviors from both staff and patients alike. For instance, front-office staff must undergo training and become confident about requesting payments at the time of service. Their mindset shouldn’t be, “Will you pay?” but rather, “How would you like to take care of your financial responsibility?” A new proactive process that begins with a written estimate at pre or time of service can give staff the conviction and confidence they need to accelerate cash flow.

On the flip side, patients aren’t accustomed to giving their physicians’ practice staff their credit or debit card to charge up to the amount of the estimate, but they can adapt to this behavior. Millions of consumers provide credit cards for ongoing payments for cable, cell phone service and gym memberships. Once staff explains the new financial policy, the benefit of price transparency and any new conveniences such as automated payment plans, patients will likely become comfortable with this arrangement.

While patients may not be accustomed to this more proactive payment strategy, they will appreciate knowing their financial responsibility – and not having any financial surprises down the road. This level of engagement and awareness for both staff and patients can reduce burdensome manual work while improving the long-term financial health of your practice.