Righting the Write-offs: Good Ideas for Avoiding Bad Debt

If “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” are there preventative measures hospitals could use to make good on bad debt?

With today’s advanced technological tools and common sense customer service tactics, hospitals can make strides earlier in the revenue cycle to reduce bad debt.

Extend the idea of “patient care” into your billing practices to improve patient satisfaction and reduce collection costs.
All too often, people cease to be “patients” and become “accounts” anytime issues surrounding billing and payment are addressed. It’s essential to extend the concept of patient care beyond the clinical and into the financial within your organization in order to keep check on potential bad debt.

• Take a positive approach regarding patient financial responsibility. Fundamentally, most people want to pay their bills. Remember this fact as you interact and correspond with patients who’ve not yet paid. Avoiding pointed, contentious communications will go a long way toward averting bad debt.

• Offer payment options at every turn.
Give patients every opportunity and multiple methods to settle accounts. Address and request payment upfront during registration. Include credit card forms on every statement. Accept payment by phone and online through a patient payment portal.

• Educate patients on their payment responsibilities.
From the point of access and throughout the care encounter, offer patients financial counseling, guidance, tips and information so they know what they owe, when payment is due and how they can pay. Prioritize patient financial advisement as if it’s an extension of patient care.

• Be flexible; offer payment plans.
There’s no sense in being rigid regarding how and when patients must pay, as it’s better to receive compensation in payments over time than to never be paid at all. Work with families to find payment solutions that work, including potential charity care coverage.

• Provide clearly stated collections policies.
Ensure all patients have access to your collections policies from the point of access and throughout their encounter with your institution. Offer copies of the policy at every appropriate point of contact in person, by phone and online. Just as a map helps people know where to go, a stated collections policy can point patients in the right direction to settle their accounts.

• Put the “custom” in “customer.”
Treat everyone personally—individually—in substantive ways. Assign an advocate to work with each patient and serve as a trusted go-to throughout the billing process. Customize billing statements to include pertinent messaging specific to the recipient and their status in the collections process.

Use billing data to proactively address and reduce the risk of bad debt.
Hospitals can address potential issues by keeping watchful eyes on collected billing data. When data is captured across integrated platforms, an array of useful, predictive insights can be gleaned, and the investment in electronic billing and payment solutions can result in extended dividends such as more accurate revenue and collection forecasts with a reduction in write-offs and delayed patient payments.

• Monitor out-of-pocket costs charged.
Even patients with third-party coverage will likely incur out-of-pocket costs, including co-pays. Large out-of-pocket costs may be potentially burdensome for individuals to pay; with awareness of this potential, hospitals can guide financial counseling and offer payment alternatives to avert any issues.

• Track customer tenure.
For first-time patients or those with only brief interactions with your institution, provide introductory information regarding billing processes, payment options and collections expectations. By addressing all the basics for those with no or little knowledge of the system, you’ll be able to illuminate the details and invite opportunities for them to ask questions.

• Gauge the time of year to anticipate patient financial responsibility.
Many plans with high deductibles divert a larger portion of out-of-pocket costs to patients earlier in the calendar year so that the deductible may be met. With this awareness, hospitals are able to anticipate and address payment issues that may arise as a result of these larger charges.

• Look at individual versus family history with the provider.
Hospitals may track payment patterns related to accounts for families versus individual accounts to determine if there are any collective issues that may be proactively addressed. Historical billing data may reveal write-off risk factors and common concerns for families and/or individuals, allowing for preemptive counseling to alleviate concern and potential bad debt.

Patients come to healthcare providers to get well, not to accrue bad debt. Just as your team of patient care professionals strives to improve people’s physical well-being, your administrative and financial staff should focus on maintaining their financial health as well. In blending the many ideas shared here, you’ll have opportunities to right the write-offs through holistic attention to patients’ needs.

When financial care is delivered proactively, thoughtfully and consistently, providers and patients alike reap the rewards—bad debt reduced, debts of gratitude on the rise. Call 877.EMDEON.6 (877.363.3666) or visit us online to discover how Emdeon Patient Connect and our industry experts can help you reduce your risk of bad debt and collect more, faster.

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Complimentary Patient Connect Consultation

Do you currently use Emdeon for your patient statement printing and are considering adding online and point-of-service payment capture? New to Emdeon and want to learn how our integrated suite of solutions can help accelerate collection of patient receivables? Get the answers you’re looking for with a complimentary Patient Connect Consultation.

Contact one of our industry experts today!

Emdeon Patient Connect, our comprehensive suite of Patient Billing & Payment Solutions, simplifies and automates patient billing and payment processes resulting in increased self-pay collections and reduced administrative costs.

Emdeon Patient Connect capabilities:
• Fast, four-color statement printing and mailing
• Convenient return mail management
• Automated lockbox services
• Easy-to-access electronic storage of billing files
• Cost-effective online billing and payment receipt
• Integrated point-of-service payment collection
• Economical pay-by-phone service
• Secure credit card processing

Call 877.EMDEON.6 (877.363.3666) or visit us online to discover how Emdeon Patient Connect and our industry experts can help you collect more, faster.

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From Documentation to Conversation

Customize Billing Statements to Connect with Patients

Say the term “patient statement” to someone, and it’ll likely conjure thoughts of a complex and confusing document listing cryptic codes and phrases capped with the verdict known as the “AMOUNT DUE.”

Perhaps it’s the word “statement” that’s been the sticking point. By definition, statements are declarative—one-sided conveyances of often impersonal information. They certainly don’t open the door for conversation or questions.

In today’s consumer-driven healthcare environment, there’s little room for “period, end of sentence” approaches. The generic patient statement of the past is no longer effective or even acceptable. Our industry is embracing innovative ways to give touches of humanity to patient statements using content customization, direct messaging and visual cues.

When patients are engaged and able to easily understand their statement, patient satisfaction rises and the risk of bad debt is decreased. Here are a few ideas for your organization to transform financial documents into engaging, patient-specific communications tools.

Fill in the Blank.
Create a blank field on your statement template to allow for patient-specific notes. Messaging can be customized at the individual, batch or population levels. With Emdeon ExpressBill Services, you can reserve a portion of your statement for this type of customized message. Both the logic to determine which message is inserted and the actual messaging itself can be specified by you. Suggested uses include:

• Offering financial counseling for large balances above a certain threshold.

• For past-due balances, reminders of the number of previous statements issued. If applicable, providers can also list the date when the patient’s account may be placed into collections.

• Communicating information about seasonally relevant health issues such as Flu Shots during the fall and spring.

• Communicating additional health services available based on the services currently being billed. For example, patients with charges for pediatric immunizations on their current statement could receive additional information about services available for children such as hearing tests and vision screenings.

Natural Order.
Communication is visual, and the layout and design of a statement does matter when conveying patient-specific information. Work with your patient billing vendor to adjust the placement of key data and text on the page. Reordering content will aid in drawing the eyes of recipients to key information first.

Color Coding.
Consider the use of fresh colors and friendlier fonts for your statements. Patient statements of the past were often nondescript in appearance—unappealing to recipients. The injection of color and more engaging typefaces does more than make statements look better; these elements can strategically call out key information and make content more readable. Colors can also be helpful in conveying account aging and urgency, evolving from a pastel palette for initial invoices to more striking oranges or reds for overdue bills.

Put the Fine Print in Large-Print.
Many providers have sizable elderly patient populations. The use of larger font sizes accommodates the needs of these patients for whom fine print would be a hindrance. With legible and visually clear content, patients with ailing or failing eyesight can better read billing statements and feel more confident about their accounts and payment requirements.

Word’s Worth.
Revisit the word choices on your statements, and change financial-speak to plain language wherever possible. Using principles applicable to retail environments, offer words of thanks prominently and personalize content with name references. Alter the tone as needed to effectively communicate account aging and overdue status, as well.

Let’s face it. Patient billing statements will never be considered light reading. Yet with personalized touches and customization, we can make them more understandable, engaging and effective. Taking the effort to humanize these necessary financial documents says something about your organization’s commitment to patient care beyond the clinical setting, and that’s a positive statement, indeed.

Call 877.EMDEON.6 (877.363.3666) or visit us online to discover how Emdeon ExpressBill Services can help improve cash flow through customizable, four-color statement printing and mailing.

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HIPAA 5010 Update

As healthcare continues to evolve, our goal is to remain forward-thinking in order to help our customers prepare for upcoming regulatory and compliance changes. Earlier this year Emdeon launched HIPAA Simplified, a one-stop online resource to provide the information that covered entities need for HIPAA readiness.

As we approach the hard deadlines for this transition, we will be providing periodic updates about important industry news and notifications when additional content is posted to HIPAA Simplified.

Industry Update: Errata Adoption
In the healthcare community, one of the major discussions this summer has revolved around the Errata for some of the HIPAA 5010 Implementation Guides (TR3s). In simple terms, the Errata are modifications to some of the TR3s.

X12N released the Errata for publication in early August, and they are now in the clearance process with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Even though the Errata have not yet been adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), many Covered Entities are still preparing to update their gap analyses accordingly. It is important to note that under these guidelines, not only must the sender adopt the Errata, but the receiver as well if they are to perform a successful exchange of information.

To help our clients with HIPAA readiness, Emdeon is publishing updated gap analyses for the transaction code sets to reflect the Errata once they are mandated by CMS. Similar to the existing library of documentation within HIPAA Simplified, Emdeon’s online resource for HIPAA readiness, these updated gap analyses will be available for visitors to download for free.

To find out more about HIPAA Simplified and see how Emdeon is simplifying the business of healthcare contact us today at 877.EMDEON.6 (877.363.3666) or visit us online.

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The Undeniable Value of Effective Claims Management

Tips to proactively clean up claims for accelerated third-party payments

There’s no denying the negative impact denied claims have on the revenue cycle of hospitals and health systems of all shapes and sizes. Denied claims not only inhibit final acquisition payment, they deplete valuable time, labor and resources put forth by staff members responsible for handling and tracking those claims. It’s not implausible for providers to lose literally millions of dollars in denied or underpaid claims over the course of a year.

As burgeoning costs and tightened reigns on spending come into play, the bottom line is at the forefront unlike ever before. Providers are keenly aware that clean claims processing is the priority of prompt third-party revenue generation and an immensely important cost cutting measure, but what are some other practical tactics that can be used to ensure larger, more complete payment? Here are some effective methods for claims management:

• Conduct claims reviews- When denials occur, it’s essential to assess what went wrong in order to remedy issues in the future. By conducting examinations of erroneous claims, providers can pinpoint problematic patterns and respond with solutions. In tandem, such reviews allow for identification of correct parties for handling specific issues leading to even more honed opportunities to avoid future denials. Culling thorough information of denied claims should also entail the assignment of dollar values to those losses so that the entire organization may fully grasp the imperative nature of clean claims submission.

• Train before the denial occurs- Engraining a culture of awareness may help clean up claims submitted and minimize claim denial occurrences. There is a short list of highly common reasons claims are rejected, including questions about beneficiary coverage and coverage of services rendered to problems with duplicate billing and an array of procedure code inconsistencies. Of course, some issues may be specific to providers or systems. Pre-knowledge of these denial triggers can help staff take measures for prevention.

• Create a cross-functional team to address claims issues- Certainly, it’s of great help to integrate best practices throughout a providers’ entire operations. The creation of an assigned team to tackle claims denials is a large step beyond the aforementioned training. However, a responsible team can take issue identification and staff training to more targeted, purposeful levels. From ensuring frontline staff ask the right questions at Patient Access and financial representatives follow stringent procedures for claims adjudication post-care, providers may find their claims more frequently accepted, effectively tracked and fully reimbursed. Built in mechanisms for reporting and tracking success will also aid in effectiveness of this approach.

• Invest in automation- The reality is, provider team members are often woefully busy. With the ever changing details regarding benefits and eligibility, it’s nearly impossible to keep everyone on staff thoroughly and appropriately apprised in order to ensure clean claims submissions, let alone update systems with standard codes and payer edits. The investment in automation is most certainly a transformative and valuable one.

Using these four tips to proactively manage claims correctly will not only lead to effective claims management, but you’ll also have less to write off in the end. Those are two benefits with undeniable advantages every provider needs today.

Are you ready for effective claims management and accelerated third-party payments? Visit us online or call 877.EMDEON.6 (877.363.3666) to discover more about how Emdeon can transform your claims management processes to positively impact your bottom line.

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Addressing the Issue of Patient Billing Database Accuracy

Even as the world has gone digital, providers continue to rely heavily on traditional delivery through the U.S. Postal Service® to send patient statements. And all too many of those statements come back “return to sender, address unknown.”

Those in charge of patient billing today also must expend greater, more time-intensive and costly efforts to reach patients whose addresses are found to be “unknown.” The effort is necessary in order to receive payment for care rendered, lest those charges become bad debt. Providers can’t expect compensation from patients for whom correct addresses can’t be found.

It’s no wonder many patients’ home addresses are tough to find. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, nearly 34 million Americans changed addresses between 2007 and 2008. The U.S. population is very mobile and prone to relocation, be that relocation in town, regionally or out-of-state.

Thankfully, the U.S. Postal Service has converged leading edge database technology with traditional mail distribution in the creation of the NCOALink® product, a comprehensive, electronically accessible database of approximately 160 million permanent change-of-address records filed with USPS®. NCOALink technology is available for use under various licensing agreements to aid in more accurate mail list processing. Many patient billing vendors are licensed to use the NCOALink service to assure more statements get to more patients—so providers can collect more payments.

For those in charge of patient billing, the NCOALink service—employed directly or accessed through a patient billing vendor—is an essential tool for significantly improving the odds of reaching patients by mail. The NCOALink service is designed to be able to integrate with providers’ patient billing databases, so that current, accurate address information is available when printing patient statements.

The NCOALink service is most effective when used in tandem with other methods of improving patient billing address databases. Here are tactics that providers can use to help eliminate inaccurate addresses from their systems.

- Require address confirmation at every patient encounter—at the point of registration, during the process of treatment, as well as part of ongoing phone and written correspondence.

- Provide online access for patients to update address information, in addition to fill-in form updates on all written materials and correspondence.

- Utilize returned mail to make database updates. Many returned statements will provide useful information that can be immediately captured in the database to aid in keeping files accurate.

- Consolidate patient databases within the organization. Maintaining multiple patient lists is inefficient and invites opportunity for errors and inequitable updates. Coordinate with internal IT teams to alter methods or create new strategies for managing databases for consistent accuracy of information.

- Develop metrics to evaluate current mailings and track improvements. It is very helpful to identify the percentage of mail that is being returned versus successfully delivered, with focus on the amount of patient bills requiring resending. Likewise, evaluate the total accounts receivable paid within the first 60 days of service, as this will be a useful indicator of efficacy of billing correspondence.

- Reward those team members who play an active role in improving patient billing databases that lead to increased account receivables.

When these methods are integrated into patient billing procedures, everyone is rewarded, from provider organizations that bolster promptness and completeness of payment to patients who receive quicker, more thorough account information.

By obtaining and maintaining accurate address data, fewer bills are “returned to sender.” And that means providers are able to proactively improve the outcomes of their billing efforts, reduce duplicated and unnecessary tasks that tax staff productivity and enhance patient relationships through more effective communications.

Emdeon is a non-exclusive Limited Service Provider Licensee of the USPS. The following trademarks are owned by the USPS: NCOALink, U.S. Postal Service, and USPS. AD #1.10


HFMA Webinar: Denial Management Strategies to Increase Cash Flow and Maximize Reimbursements

Attend an HFMA Webinar to Learn More

Tracking and managing the overwhelming volume of claims, denials, and resubmissions throughout the entire revenue cycle can be a daunting challenge for healthcare providers. As the collection period for payer reimbursements has increased, the impact of denied and underpaid claims has further compounded this issue, straining workloads and jeopardizing critical cash flow and capital reserves.

As providers continue to navigate an economically challenging climate, streamlining the denial management process and, more importantly, preventing future revenue loss or delay is becoming increasingly critical. Determining root causes, patterns, and process breakdowns responsible for denials and establishing corrective steps can reduce the volume of denied claims and write-offs, ultimately increasing net revenue.

Register now to attend an HFMA Webinar September 30th 3:00 to 4:30 pm EST to hear more about this topic! Henrietta Goodall Hospital will share best practices and recommendations for using proactive denial management strategies to shape internal policies and processes to maximize results.

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Emdeon Patient Connect Product Enhancement

We are excited to share important news about a new product enhancement for Emdeon eCashiering and Emdeon Patient Pay Online, two solutions that are part of our comprehensive Patient Billing & Payment offering, Emdeon Patient Connect.

More capability to offer balance discounts to encourage prompt payments*
Emdeon recently launched a new feature that enables Emdeon eCashiering and Emdeon Patient Pay Online customers to offer balance discounts for patients. This provides an incentive for patients to submit payments more quickly, improving cash flow and reducing the risk of bad debt.

Impact to Emdeon eCashiering and Emdeon Patient Pay Online
Emdeon eCashiering and Emdeon Patient Pay Online will adjust/lower the patient balance if the patient meets the discount eligibility requirements at the time of payment. Providers can establish both the balance discount percentage and the variables used to determine discount eligibility. For example, a provider can offer a 2% balance discount for payments made in full within 30 days from the date of service. In this scenario, for a $100 balance, the patient would only pay $98.00 and $2.00 would be credited to their account.

Committed to continuous improvement
To learn more about this product enhancement, contact your Emdeon Account Executive or Relationship Manager or call 877.EMDEON.6 (877.363.3666).

As the healthcare industry evolves, our goal is to provide new solutions and improve existing services that help you meet and exceed your business goals. To learn more about Emdeon and how we are Simplifying the Business of Healthcare, visit us online.

Emdeon eCashiering and Emdeon Patient Pay Online customers are not required to implement balance discounts for their provider’s facility. Balance discounts/credits offered to patients are incurred by the provider. Emdeon does not reimburse providers/customers for balance discounts provided to patients.

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