Value of Enterprise-Wide Text Messaging: Billing (Part IV)
Fourth part in a five-part series
This blog post is the latest in our series examining the value and importance of a texting platform's scalability across a healthcare organization's full enterprise. By using text messaging across the enterprise, patients receive more timely information from those departments supporting them throughout their care journey while an organization is able to better achieve its clinical, operational, and financial objectives.
This series covers the following stages in the journey:
5 Billing Texting Uses and Benefits
In this fourth in a five-part series, we discuss five of the ways text messaging effectively supports communications about patient billing.
1. Verification of coverage and benefits
For staff members tasked with outbound insurance verification, calling and reaching patients is time-consuming and often unsuccessful. The problem with this approach is an increasing number of outbound calls are not answered. A survey by TrueCaller found that nearly 9 in 10 Americans try to only answer calls if they can identify the person or business calling. And leaving a voicemail is no longer an assured way to reach someone quickly, if at all. However, almost every inbound call to an organization during hours of operation will be answered by a staff member.
Organizations can send a text to patients letting them know that a staff member needs to verify their insurance and benefits and then ask patients to call the organization. This usage case is a fundamental game-changer for staff and their workflow as it frees up time typically spent making repeated calls and leaving voicemails. There are many case studies that demonstrate how text messaging dramatically reduces the number of phone calls organizations must make to patients.
2. Improving pre-treatment collections
Collecting prior to the day of treatment is a win-win for organizations and patients. Organizations not only receive payment, but they can feel more confident that the treatment will proceed as planned. If patients arrive for their treatment without having paid in advance, organizations have a choice: They can attempt to collect prior to providing treatment or wait until after the treatment to collect. The former can add stress to an already stressed patient. If the patient indicates they are unable to pay, this may force the organization to postpone treatment. If the organization waits until after providing treatment to collect, this can prove difficult and potentially lead to lengthy delays in collecting — which can grow an organization's accounts receivable (A/R) balance — and even lost payments. For patients, paying in advance eliminates a potentially stressful process from their treatment day. They can focus more on their care and getting well.
Text messaging is a highly effective way to initiate the pre-treatment collections process. Patients can be informed of their balance and then directed on ways they can pay, such as via portal — with the text providing a hyperlink — or by calling the organization to pay via credit card over the phone, with the text providing a direct phone number.
3. Discussing payments
Patients frequently have questions about their balance, from why they owe a certain amount to their options for payment, including whether the organization offers a payment plan. Organizations can include language in texts encouraging patients to call a hyperlinked phone number and the appropriate hours to call if they have questions or concerns about their balance.
4. Balance and payment methodology reminders
If pre-treatment collections is not an option or if patients indicate they do not want to pay or pay in full in advance of their treatment, a text message to patients prior to the day of treatment can provide their balance and identify the methods of payment the organization accepts on site. This can better help ensure patients arrive knowing what they own and prepared to pay using an approved payment method.
5. Reducing outstanding accounts receivable
Collecting what patients owe for their care is an essential component of a healthcare organization's operations — and one that has taken on greater importance as patient financial responsibility has increased in recent years. This has further motivated organizations to try to collect at least some if not most or all of what a patient will owe prior to the delivery of care. But in many instances, this is not possible. For emergency departments, urgent care clinics, and other service providers that take walk-in patients, collecting what patients will owe for their care in advance — beyond a copay — is not an option.
In addition, what a patient will owe for their care may change based upon findings of a treatment (e.g., a colonoscopy that discovers polyps, which are then removed of have tissue samples taken for biopsy). Patient payment estimator tools, while helpful in providing organizations with a figure they can work to collect in advance, only provide what their name suggests: estimations. If the estimation comes in low, the organization will need to collect the balance. All these factors and others lead to outstanding patient A/R that organizations must collect.
Chasing payments can be an expensive, time-consuming, and often inefficient and unsuccessful process. Text messaging can help organizations greatly reduce their A/R and get paid faster. For example, one ambulatory surgery center (ASC) used texting to reduce its outstanding A/R by more than half in just six weeks. Employees sent direct texts to patients — instead of making multiple phone calls or mailing billing correspondences — that included a link to the ASC's payment portal and a phone number the patient could call if they had wanted to pay over the phone or had any questions. Texting helped the surgery center collect from patients; helped the ASC collect faster from patients, with about 50% of patients who received the texts paying their bill within just three days of getting the message; and also freed up staff to focus on other essential business office tasks.
Healthcare Enterprise Texting to Support Staff Communications
The final part of this series — part five — will cover the ways texting can help healthcare staff communicate with one another. This includes emergency communications, open enrollment engagement, filling scheduling gaps, and improving staff morale.