Preventing Bad Debt and Improving Collections: Bridging the Communication Gap Between Patients and Providers

Patient engagement lies at the heart of healthcare delivery today. A provider’s engagement with their patients is a defining aspect of the patient financial experience. More importantly, patient engagement impacts your hospital’s efficiency when it comes to the collection process. 

While outstanding medical bills have always been a source of financial stress for both patients and providers, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problem. Between unemployment risk, loss of insurance coverage, and increased rates of illness, healthcare organizations and patients alike are dealing with the financial consequences of the pandemic. 

HealthPay24 understands the unique collections issues caused by the pandemic in recent years. But new communication techniques can reduce the frequency of medical bills going to collections, easing the financial burden felt by patients and providers. We value informed communication between patients, hospitals, and healthcare systems, which is why we have excellent client satisfaction and a 100% referenceable customer base. By prioritizing patient engagement solutions, HealthPay24 helps you improve conversations with patients in pre-service and point-of-service to decrease patient payments going to collections. Our goal is simple—create better-informed consumers through patient engagement.

Patient Engagement and Preventing Bad Debt

Preventing Bad Debt

For many people in the US, struggling to pay a medical bill is unavoidable. In fact, one in five US households is unable to pay an incurred medical bill. While efforts are made to reduce medical bills going to collections, such as eliminating harmful practices on behalf of providers, reforming repayment options, and preventing medical bills from impacting credit reports, more can be done to improve the patient financial experience. Hospitals and healthcare systems can reduce unpaid medical bills by having important conversations with patients in pre-service before they see a doctor. 

Undeniably, unpaid medical expenses can put a significant amount of strain on patients and their families. However, they are also a source of worry for hospitals and other providers. When a patient leaves a medical bill unpaid, it is sent directly to an early-out vendor to collect on the amount. Once the bill goes to collections, hospitals only collect up to 30% of the bill’s total amount. What’s more, the 10th edition of the Trends in Healthcare Payments Annual Report found that it takes 74% of healthcare providers over a month to collect on a medical bill that has gone to collections.

Unpaid medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States. Considering 91% of patients received a surprise medical bill in 2019, hospitals and healthcare systems should implement patient engagement solutions like those offered by HealthPay254, in pre-service and point-of-service, before their patients incur an unexpected medical bill.

Asking the Right Questions in Pre-Service

Patient engagement solutions for preventing unpaid medical bills begin with providers asking patients the right questions from the start of the patient experience. Many patients have difficulty paying a medical bill because they are confused about the cost, so the best questions a provider can ask a patient in pre-service are related to affordability options and propensity to pay a medical bill. 

For example, during pre-service, front-office hospital staff can suggest that a new patient sign up for a payment plan to avoid surprise from a big bill. This way, patients fully understand their responsibilities surrounding their bill and are informed about their options right away. As a result, patients are much more likely to pay their bills on time, and collections can be avoided.

Improving communication with patients in pre-service helps providers:

  • Create well-informed patients actively engaged in their cost of care.
  • Earn their patient’s trust through price transparency.
  • Establish a positive patient financial experience.

Each of these reasons increases the likelihood of a patient paying their medical bill on time, and returning to you for care in the future. 

Hospitals save a significant amount of money when they set patients up for success and prevent medical bills from going to collections. As the American Collection Association reports, only about 15% of unpaid hospital bills are collected. In some instances, that number drops to just 5%. With only 33% of providers actively seeking payments in pre-service, adopting effective patient engagement solutions can help your hospital save big. 

Patient Engagement and Preventing Bad Debt

Providing the Best Solutions During Point-of-Service

Regardless of what patient engagement solutions you choose, they must meet patients on their own terms. Though it is not possible to completely avoid patients’ failure to pay medical bills, there are tools you can use during point-of-service to avoid sending a bill to an early-out vendor. 

For example, if a patient is struggling to understand a medical bill, offer a centralized platform to make the payment process as transparent as possible. This way, patients can access all of their healthcare financial information in one place,  itemize their bills, and make well-informed payment decisions. 

Providing patients with flexible payment options is integral to avoiding missed payments on a bill that may lead to bad debt. One way providers can do this is by incorporating text-to-pay and online payment options.

Only 49% of providers across the US follow formal policies and procedures for collections during point-of-service. As a result, 51% of providers have room for improvement in their point-of-service collections. After enacting patient engagement solutions that establish guidelines for pre- and point-of-service payments, some providers saw their organization’s bad debt decrease by 4%.  

With credit reports illustrating Americans owed $88 billion in bad debt from unpaid medical bills just last year, it’s clear that patient financial engagement should be a top priority for providers. 

HealthPay24 Affordability Features That Can Prevent Bad Debt

The economic turmoil spurred by the pandemic only worsened the financial stress patients have endured. Presenting patients with multiple payment options can maximize healthcare affordability and ensure your hospital or provider gets paid on time. HealthPay24 offers a variety of payment features your hospital can offer patients in pre- and point-of-service to prevent bad debt:

  • Payment plans
  • Non-recourse loans
  • Discounts
  • Financial assistance screening
  • Flexible payment options
  • Digital communications

Moreover, we can also help you receive payments faster with innovative communication, with our patient-centered features:

  • Text-to-Collect from anywhere 
  • Statements and paperless billing
  • Email and SMS messaging
  • Payroll deduction for employees

Adopting proactive patient engagement solutions doesn’t have to be a complicated process. HealthPay24 is eager to guide your hospital or healthcare system through potential solutions to better communicate with your patients. With effective communication, providers can reduce the number of medical bills that go to collections and prevent bad debt, overall improving the patient financial experience.

Want to know more about how the right patient payment platform can help eliminate bad debt and enhance patient communication? Read more at HealthPay24.com and learn how our software can help improve your bottom line.