two men and one woman sitting in hospital lobby talking

Protect patient revenue, start at the point of contact

by Jeff Plum

The average 350-bed hospital could boost revenue by $22 million each year by taking a more strategic approach to improving revenue cycle performance, according to a recent report from The Advisory Board.¹

One key strategy alone could increase margins by up to 6.4 percent: improving the patient financial experience.

A proactive approach to strengthen patient financial communications is critical at a time when patients face increased responsibility for the cost of their care, particularly with the rise in high deductibles. Such communications build more enduring relationships with patients, improve collections and set the stage for a more positive patient experience.

A proactive approach to strengthen patient financial communications is critical at a time when patients face increased responsibility for the cost of their care, particularly with the rise in high deductibles.

Here are four ways health systems can enhance financial communications throughout the patient journey.

1. Be transparent about the patient’s out-of-pocket cost for care. Today, hospitals write off 4.4 percent of patient obligations as bad debt, an Advisory Board analysis shows.²  Educate patients about their financial obligations early in the encounter — ideally, before the patient arrives for care or treatment — so patients can make informed choices about treatment. It’s also one step toward eliminating sticker shock and developing a plan for payment that decreases the financial stress of the visit.With technologies that calculate patient responsibility in seconds, patient financial services staff are more empowered than ever to engage patients in the financial aspects of their care before services are delivered. Invest in technologies that also identify patient eligibility for financial assistance, such as Medicare, Medicaid or charity care, to give staff the tools to provide personalized help for patients in need, while protecting the financial health of the organization.

2. Ask for payment at the point of service. Use technologies that automatically estimate the patient’s out-of-pocket responsibility before service is delivered. This positions the healthcare organization to request even a portion of payment at the start of the encounter. If the expectation for payment is set early in the patient journey, it gives patients an opportunity to establish payment plans that best meet their needs. It’s also the first step toward improving revenue.

3. Develop patient-friendly billing statements. At a time when the average patient carries a deductible of $1,478,  patient-friendly billing statements eliminate the mystery of how costs were calculated, how much the patient owes for care, when payment is expected and who to contact with questions.³ The Healthcare Financial Management Association offers free tools for developing patient-friendly statements and advice on having tough conversations about the financial aspects of care.⁴

4. Offer multiple options for payment. Meet patients on their terms by offering ways to pay online, by phone, in person or by mail. Make sure options for payment are featured prominently on billing statements and the hospital website as well as on marketing collateral, where appropriate.

Take these four steps to improve the patient financial experience throughout their journey. It can help hospitals and health systems eliminate revenue leakage — and improve financial health for organizations and their patients.

Reduce overhead expenses while boosting revenue

Learn how you can automate and optimize revenue cycle management throughout the patient journey.

Jeff Plum, Business Process Consultant for Ricoh USA, Inc., is highly proficient in enhancing document and information workflow and accessibility with the intended goal of improving patient care, the physician experience and operational efficiencies. Plum has been with Ricoh for more than 34 years, with more than 30 years of that focused on the Healthcare space. Plum has an extensive background in patient access, medical records, physician referrals, pharmacy, lab and overall documentation content and workflow in both the acute care and ambulatory care space.

  1. 1. The Advisory Board Company, “Average Hospital Revenue Cycle Leaves $22 Million on the Table.” PR Newswire, June 27, 2017.
  2. 2. Jim Lazarus, “You’re Probably Leaving $22 Million on the Table. Here are 4 Things to do About it.” Advisory Board, June 29, 2017.
  3. 3. Bob Herman, “The Ongoing Cost Shift in Employer Health Benefits.” Modern Healthcare, September 14, 2016.
  4. 4. “Patient Friendly Billing Resources.” HFMA, 2017.