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How Do You Prioritize the Patient Experience?

Nov 23, 2021 | Posted by Sarah Fifield in ASC Billing & Coding

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“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Or, so the saying goes. The medical industry is seeing constant advances in technology and procedures, but some areas of medical care remain antiquated; this can be due to convenience, comfort, or anything in between. We have seen ASCs that still have record rooms filled to the brim with paper files versus transitioning to an EMR, and know that many centers still utilize paper preference cards versus switching to digital options.

Here’s the thing - we get it! Some things are tried and true, so why fix it? While we always encourage keeping up with advancements for the benefit of your staff and center, we understand it may take a few years of convincing for some changes to take place.

But, what happens when staying behind the curve is a detriment to more than just your staff and facility, but your patients, too?

There is no question that patient experience is a huge factor when it comes to the success of your facility - while many patients may have no say in where they have a procedure done, word-of-mouth can negatively impact future patients as well as a patient’s willingness to pay their bill in a timely or complete manner due to a less-than-ideal visit.

Something to keep in mind - the patient experience begins as soon as they are scheduled with your facility, and doesn’t end until after they have completed all follow-up and paid their balance due. While your center can get by with paper records and other older practices, the patient experience is an area that needs to be consistently updated and reevaluated to ensure your center is providing top-tier patient care.

So, let’s dive into bringing your patient experience up to date as we head into 2022.

First Impression

First, take a look at the patient’s initial interaction with your facility. If they call to schedule their own appointment, ensure your Scheduler provides all necessary information, and sets the expectations of who will be contacting the patient and what to keep an eye out for leading up to the appointment (such as forms to complete). Ensuring a pleasant first interaction lays the foundation for a pleasant patient experience.

From here, we move into the more complex aspects of the patient experience.

Consulting

Money. Is. Stressful! Paying bills isn’t fun. Owing money is never enjoyable. Figuring out how to pay a high-balance bill, potentially before you even have the procedure? The worst.

The financial aspect is arguably one of the most important pieces of the puzzle to ensure a positive patient experience. To set your center up for success, we suggest creating a Financial Consultant role; this position will work with patients from the time of scheduling through their postoperative billing. To begin, they will walk the patient through their estimated balance due, and explain the payment plan and financing options available to the patient. The Financial Consultant will also assist the patient with understanding their EOBs, deductible, and why they owe the outlined figures. This is where potential discounts may also be discussed - such as pay-in-full discounts - as well as explaining the center’s refund policy if more is collected up front than the patient actually owes.

For most individuals unfamiliar with the medical industry, they won’t have the knowledge surrounding their insurance to properly comprehend the charges, discounts, what they personally owe and why. Having a Financial Consultant to break it down to the basics will not only provide comfort and clarity to the patient, but also set them up for better success for understanding the layout of future procedure billing without the need of a Financial Consultant’s assistance. 

Once a plan for payment is established with the patient, the Financial Consultant will be available for follow-up questions and consulting, as needed. By having this resource available, you will benefit not only the patient by reducing financial stress and overwhelm leading up to their procedure, but also your ASC by increasing your patient collections as a result of setting up payment plans and providing insight on the billing.

Billing

As we said, the financial aspect is one of the most important pieces in the patient experience - billing included! While the Financial Consultant is there to assist the patient in understanding their bill and walk them through it, the billing office will ultimately handle ensuring payment is collected from the patient. If your center does not collect payment at time of service, this post-operative billing process can impact your customer satisfaction.

Let’s be honest, nothing is worse than a surprise bill received months after a procedure that completely fell off your radar. It is important to ensure your billing office keeps up communication with the patient, calling to update that a balance due is still expected but the claim is taking a bit to process, and checking in to follow up on a payment due. By helping keep the anticipated bill on the patients radar, it won't be a shock to the system when a bill finally appears and payment is due.

Don't forget - the more prepared a patient is to pay a bill, the more money your ASC will be able to collect, therefore increasing your profit! Another idea to consider is an online payment portal that allows patients to make payments on their own time. Since most individuals will be working during your billing office’s open hours, it is important to allow an option to pay their bill when convenient for them. Again - convenience is key!

Communication

Imagine this - you call a patient and wait as their phone rings for 30 seconds. Then, you are sent to their voicemail box where you listen to their 15-second voicemail recording, followed by you leaving a 45-second voicemail updating the patient on their upcoming appointment. Even worse - their voicemail box is full.

You just spent a minute and a half on that call, if not longer.

When implementing a text system, reminders are able to be more streamlined and automated, reducing the time per patient drastically; this then frees up your staff’s time to focus on other important areas of the business office. 

Let's say it once more - convenience is KEY! By offering more convenient practices to your patients, you will see an improvement in patient satisfaction when less work is required of them.

Of course, the most important impact is that it has on the patient. Nowadays, people are busy. From working full time to managing families and social activities, answering a phone call from a number you don’t recognize isn’t a top priority when other means of communication are available. Not only does a text provide documentation they can quickly refer back to, but also increases the likelihood of the patient receiving the correspondence versus a voicemail that may go un-listened to, or even unreceived due to the plague of a full voicemail box.

That being said, it is important to keep your audience in mind when making decisions about your ASC’s communication methods. If your center sees primarily older or elderly patients, texting may not be the right fit. Find the method of communication that best suits your patients first, and enjoy the trickle down benefits within your center.

Improving the patient experience through communication doesn’t stop there! Technological opportunities within healthcare communications are vast, and can improve response rates for your ASC. From SMS Surveys to text marketing, and even text-to-email options, streamlining your communications will provide positive impacts across your center.

Listen to your Audience

You provide patient satisfaction surveys for a reason - listen to them! The feedback provided by your patients will allow you to see recurring themes in areas that could use improvement or that you are doing successfully. 

By implementing the aforementioned suggestion of SMS surveys (meaning the survey is delivered via text to be completed on their phone), you will likely see an increased rate of survey completion, providing you with more adequate data to analyze and implement within your ASC.

If you’re reading this thinking, “None of my survey questions are relevant to the patient experience”, then that is a great starting point. Take a look at your survey questions quarterly to make sure you are collecting relevant data, not using outdated questions that don’t elicit the desired style of feedback.

Make sure you are taking these surveys into account and truly listening to the voices that are representing the population you serve.

 

Remember - good things take time. If you aren't sure where to start, let your patients tell you! Update your survey and listen to the results - then, get to implementing improved practices to see a better patient experience.

Ready to bring your patient experience to the forefront? Let's chat! in2itive's full service Revenue Cycle Management can help bring your billing practices back to life and ensure top-tier patient service. Learn more about the services we offer by visiting our solutions page here.

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