But like many other forms of change, once you reorient your practice to focus on patients’ convenience, you'll notice something else: opportunities. For specialty practices, seeing those opportunities begins with a shift in perspective.
When we talk about patient satisfaction, strong medical outcomes are and always will be the priority. This is especially true for MACRA/MIPS and VBC in general. Practices will obviously need to identify appropriate Clinical Quality Measure (CQMs) in order to demonstrate the value of their medical services.
However, patient satisfaction (i.e. customer satisfaction) in most industries these days is about much more than just the outcome: It's also about the experience. Using workflow improvements as a way to improve patient satisfaction, then, is about more than just tracking CQMs. It's also about creating practice workflows that improve the patient experience throughout your practice.
Nobody likes paperwork. As much as physicians (rightfully) complain about the amount of documentation they’re required to complete these days, patients beat them to the sick-and-tired stage long ago. Yet, many practices continue to greet patients when they arrive for appointments with clipboards and stacks of poorly-copied forms that feature only the tiniest of blanks.
An online patient portal can provide relief to both patients and providers, while also benefitting your bottom-line. Today’s robust portals can facilitate a great many tasks that currently take too much time for all players in the healthcare continuum. A fully-featured portal provides access to secure patient/practice communications, appointment, refill and record requests, bill payment, and the collection of critical PFSH data – all without the patient even setting foot in the office and when there’s more time (and patience) to gather critical information.
Such functionality facilitates the collection of more accurate information, eliminates time-consuming chores, and saves time for patients and staff alike. Online registration prior to appointments also improves patient flow and helps practices stick to their schedules, since there is less paperwork to fill out in the waiting room – and process behind the front-desk. You'd also be sparing your staff the trouble of deciphering inscrutable handwriting, which not only prolongs the task, but can also lead to greater inaccuracies and clinical confusion.
Accurate and timely patient registration is crucial, both for creating a positive patient experience and for promoting revenue health. This is especially true today for patients who have high deductibles. Practices have always collected insurance information prior to patient encounters; however, HDHPs and co-insurance have escalated the risk involved in not providing patients with payment estimations prior to an exam or treatment. More of their revenue is tied up with the patient's ability (or inability) to cover his or her portion of the bill, meaning it's critical to proactively verify insurance eligibility and any pre-authorizations and referrals, and to generate an accurate payment estimation.
Furthermore, a patient's inability to make a payment is not the only risk factor here. Additional time and money will need to be exerted should that outstanding balance go to collections, as your staff attempt to recover the amount owed. Not to mention, chasing down patients for money has the potential to become a negative, if not contentious, experience within an already-sensitive relationship.
Thus, it's critical for practices to be able to quickly and accurately generate payment estimations prior to or, at the very least, at the time of encounter. It's not atypical for patients to prioritize certain procedures and treatments over others based on insurance coverage and cost – and practices need the right PM that allow them to provide proactive estimates in the first place.
Another factor to consider is the possibility of pre-payment for co-pays and deductibles. Using the aforementioned online patient portal and payment estimation functions, practices can do three things to improve their odds of patient-based reimbursement while also creating a more convenient experience:
If e-commerce vendors like Amazon have taught us anything, it's that one of the best ways to simultaneously improve a transactional experience and improve the odds of getting paid is to make it as easy as possible for someone to tender the amount owed. And, in today’s world of ubiquitous smart phones, patients expect the ability to conduct business – even their healthcare – online or in the palm of their hand.
The ultimate goal of improving the patient experience as it relates to revenue management is to reduce the amount of charges that go to collections. However, exceptions may still arise where patients are billed retroactively. In these circumstances, it's important to have formal workflows in place to calmly and efficiently work with patients to collect outstanding balances or to create a payment plan.
There are in fact ways to maintain a congenial and positive patient relationship with someone who owes your practice money. Unfortunately, many practices rely on in-house staff members to chase payments, which can be a high-effort/low-reward and contentious task. An alternative is to shift delicate billing functions to a partner that specializes in accounts-management and collections services. The right partner is oftentimes able to more effectively navigate these difficult tasks in ways that better preserve the patient/practice relationship and do it in a cost-neutral manner.
For more information about this, and other elements of how better patient-driven workflows can improve revenue health and patient experiences, contact AllMeds today.