By Rachna Chaudhari, August 03, 2015
The health insurance marketplace has undergone many changes over the past several years with an emphasis on more transparency and greater financial responsibility on the individual patient. Dermatology practices have seen this with the rise of deductibles, specialist co-pays, and health savings accounts. In fact, the Health Care Cost Institute’s 2013 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report showed that patients spent an average of $800 on out-of-pocket medical costs in 2013, a 4 percent increase from 2012. Many patients are simply unaware of what these changes mean with regard to their out-of-pocket costs with the end result being that the practice is left holding the bill. In order to ensure your patients are well aware of their financial responsibility with out-of-pocket costs — which will make them much more likely to pay their balance — your practice should take the necessary steps to create a patient-friendly bill as well as appropriate financial policies and procedures.
Review your patient bill
Review your current billing statement that is sent to patients. Look for any wording that could be confusing to patients as well how clearly stated the balance owed is. You may even want someone without prior medical billing knowledge to look over the bill to determine how easy it is to understand. Also pay attention to typeface (you may need to increase the font size for elderly patients) and whether you have a large population of non-English speaking patients who may require the bill to be translated.
Your new patient bill
Start crafting your new template for a bill. Ensure you are including the following items:
- Your practice’s contact information including where to send payment and who to call for questions.
- Make sure this information is bolded and easy to find.
- Provide alternate ways for patients to make a payment, i.e. online, via phone, etc.
- The patient’s name and account number.
- You can include the patient’s insurance information if necessary.
- An invoice number for easy reference.
- Date of the service including a brief description along with the relevant CPT and ICD-9/10 codes.
- Ensure the description is in layman’s terms so the patient can understand it.
- Include CPT and ICD-9/10 codes in case the patient needs to speak with their insurance company about the bill.
- Provide the complete amount owed.
- Include the amount charged, any adjustments from the insurance, and the final amount owed.
- You may also want to write brief instructions reiterating exactly what the patient owes and how to pay.
- Legal requirements.
- If your state or billing company has any legal disclaimers, include these on the back of the bill.[pagebreak]
Policies and procedures
Write financial policies for your practice regarding the timing of statements and how office staff should interact with patients regarding collections. Make sure you aren’t sending patients statements before you have collected the amount owed from the insurance company. This can cause confusion from the patient’s perspective which may prevent payment. Also create policies regarding the timing of how often to send statements to patients who have multiple balances owed and a strategy for collecting past-due accounts. Ensure your practice accepts credit/debit cards as this is very routine in medical practices. Have a written policy in place for patients who face financial hardship. (For more discussion of issues around collecting from patients with high deductibles, read DW’s March feature on the topic.
No matter how your practice collects payments from patients, creating sound policies and procedures is essential to maximizing reimbursement. A patient-friendly bill is a vital tool in this process. A model bill is presented above for your practice to modify to its own standards.
Model Patient-Friendly Bill
Below is an example of a model patient-friendly bill