Patient-Centric Approach Key to Successfully Reducing Self-Pay Balances
by Scott Zimmerman
There is no question that collecting outstanding balances is a challenging process. Not only is it difficult to allocate time for staff members to repeatedly contact patients to obtain payments, it is also crucial to not alienate patients in the process. However, collecting self-pay balances electronically can take the pressure off staff and avoid annoying patients.
Self-pay receivables account for between 10 percent and 20 percent of expected hospital cash-flow streams, making the collection of these balances very important. Industry research indicates that even the best paying patients require an average of 3.3 statements before they pay their bill, stretching a healthcare provider’s time to collect to more than 100 days. And, 81 percent of self-pay net revenues are not recovered, according to The Advisory Board Company.
However, patient notifications during the early phase of the revenue cycle can be as simple as a friendly reminder sent via an automated phone call or email. Not only does this tactic allow a healthcare organization to use its staff in other ways, such as focusing more on patients who owe large sums of money, but it also promotes better provider-patient interaction.
Collection of self-pay receivables is particularly difficult when a great deal of time has passed since the date service was rendered. Simple oversight, a forgotten bill, or confusion over the amount owed is often the cause of payment collected months later. That delay means money is not available to providers for long periods and increases the likelihood that it is never collected – a particularly unfortunate situation when balances are high.