How (and when) providers bill their patients is not only critical to timely — and hopefully, complete — receipt of payment, but for the patient’s customer-satisfaction overall. It’s a critical element of optimizing your revenue, as well as how likely your patients will keep coming back for services in the future.
In the U.S., the No Surprises Act that took effect Jan. 1 is designed to prevent large “surprise” bills from reaching a patient due to receiving out-of-network emergency services, non-emergency services from out-of-network providers at in-network facilities, or services from out-of-network air ambulance service providers.
But another surprise bill can come from an in-network provider, who was so slow to bill insurance and the patient that the invoice comes as a confusing and unpleasant surprise weeks, months or even a year later. That surprise can lead to revenue delays or even non-payment of bills, poor customer reviews, and patients who go shopping for another practice because of their anger and frustration.
In a Kaiser Health Foundation health tracking poll, receiving an unexpected bill tops the list of surveyed insured adults of the financial situations that worry them. One-third of insured adults reports there’s been a time in the last two years when they or a family member received a bill for a service they thought was covered under their insurance but was not. More than 4 in 10 insured adults said they couldn’t afford an unexpected medical bill of $500 or more, and 7 in 10 lower-income adults could not. There are thousands of examples of late and/or surprise bills that have devastated the financial status of whole families.
That’s all easily avoidable by intakeQ’s practiceQ™ practice-management solution, which makes it efficient to send out clear, timely patient invoices and customizable messages. As HFMA’s Patient Friendly Billing Project states, the goal is to provide invoices (and related messaging) that are clear, concise, correct, and patient-friendly.
Benefits of a ‘one-stop’ solution
All providers must have a billing system of some kind; many are digital, though even in 2022, some are not. Many providers also have a patient portal and messaging capabilities. But few have a fully integrated solution that has patient information, payments, invoicing, automatic and customizable messaging and a patient portal, all in one place. That combination is a huge timesaver and far more accurate than trying to integrate multiple and disparate systems.
For patients, the benefits of digital invoices and reminders include no longer getting a paper invoice in the mail or at the end of an appointment. For the office staff, there’s no longer a need for rows of filing cabinets taking up precious space that could be used for patient care. Paperless is also better for the environment. Integrated digital systems reduce administrative time, and the best have preferred settings so you can “set it and forget it”…that is, unless you want to customize settings for certain patients or populations.
Many of the other convenient features include:
- Adding your logo, standard type font(s) and colors, not only initially but when your branding changes, and billing address(es).
- Using default messaging or adapting it per your team’s wishes, including sender name
- Offering a partial-payment option (or not)
- Patient’s ability to pay online and receive a customized receipt…all one system!
- Security including a special link with or without an access code and a determined expiration date
- Ability to add % of taxes if appropriate
- Review the payment history per patient — paid and unpaid/pending invoices, what’s overdue and more
Simple steps to get you started
In the practiceQ appointment calendar, check to see if the patient is set up to be automatically billed. With a few easy clicks, you can choose settings to use for all patients, or on a per-patient basis. You can easily choose whether to charge on the day of service, or adjust not to charge automatically for certain patients based on the practice’s relationship and/or prior discussion with certain patients. Of course, you can’t charge automatically if you don’t first have insurance information and a credit/debit card or bank transfer authorization on file. With simple checkboxes, you can select how to issue the invoice (email or secure messaging).
Your care team’s work is integrated; shouldn’t your systems be?
We all know that handoffs between staff members — and systems — are where errors are most likely to occur. In this case, they can delay accurate invoices and slow down timely payment, while preventing patients from staying satisfied. Only a fully integrated yet elegant system of automated invoicing and reminders make the best outcomes occur in the most-efficient and effective way possible.