Billing is not something most physicians learn about in medical school, according to Matt Buder Shapiro, co-founder and chief marketing officer of MedPilot, a company that offers a digital tool to help patients understand and resolve medical expenses. “But billing is what keeps the lights on for all these practices, so you need to develop a strategy to provide a better experience for your patients,” he says.
He recommends that an improved experience should begin the moment patients come to the front desk. It helps to pair requests for payment information with “helpful resources.” These resources can take the form of “clarity on costs from the insurance side, clarity on procedure information, cost estimation” and so on.
Patients are understandably a little nervous about handing over a credit card to a physician’s front desk. In today’s climate, he says, patients often feel that their medical bills “come out of nowhere.”
Thus, “providing [resources] makes it a little bit easier to get a credit card on file or accept some of the cash up front,” he explains.
This is, of course, especially important as collecting payment information up front makes it more likely for practices to collect on the back end.
Shapiro also emphasizes that front desk or billing staff should be sure to make clear that just by handing over a card, the patient isn’t going to be billed at random, and that they make an effort to explain exactly “what they might be on the hook for” in terms of cost.
Provide a digital experience
Shapiro says that perhaps the biggest step a physician practice can take toward patient satisfaction in regards to billing is to get rid of paper statements and bills in favor of mobile and digital solutions.
“It’s 2018 and people are checking their phones hundreds of times a day; they’re not checking their mailboxes,” he says. “It’s very important to be focusing on proper communication channels that are actually resonant with people.”
He insists that making as many options digital as possible will give physicians a “better chance of reaching your patients” but will also lead to higher patient satisfaction. Many times “patients are put into uncomfortable situations because they’re not being reached on forms of communication they utilize,” he says.
For example, people move a lot and paper bills might get lost and end up in collections just because someone changed addresses. “If you’re only reaching them through statements, it’s very possible that patients have absolutely no idea they’re even getting communicated with by a healthcare provider,” Shapiro says.
Going digital also can save a practice money. “It’s extremely expensive to try to reach your patients through [paper] statements no matter how big your practice is,” he says. “Any time you’re relying on digital and able to drastically increase how much you collect from patients and decrease your costs, that seems like a win-win and a no-brainer.”
Making mobile solutions to billing accessible to patients will have a dramatic impact on patient satisfaction, Shapiro says. “I don’t think physicians quite grasp how much they’re negatively affecting their patients by using outdated, old methods of working with them.”
A fulfilling experience is “the last interaction with your brand,” he says.