Ease up on patient collections to improve revenue cycle management

The financial pressures hospitals face will likely increase, which will in turn lead to lengthened revenue cycles. But there are many ways to ensure that those cycles end with satisfactory financial incomes, according to Becker's Hospital CFO.

Terry Niles, executive vice president of Budco Financial, a hospital revenue cycle consultant, noted that because patients are more responsible for their out-of-pocket costs, collection cycles will likely be longer. As a result, hospitals should focus on increasing their overall satisfaction.

"When responding to the (patient satisfaction) survey, patients consider the care and treatment they received but also everything that came afterwards," Niles wrote. "How the hospital addressed the collection of the deductible and copay can affect the patients' overall satisfaction with their experience."

Niles suggested that hospitals remove themselves from the collections process, and instead offer patients low-cost financing. As a result, the patients are less likely to have negative experiences and more likely to pay their bills.

By contrast, a recent report by the non-profit Washington Community Action Network outlined how the MultiCare hospital system in Washington State "traumatized" patients by putting them on a "treadmill" of repeat garnishments and heaped legal and other fees onto the bills for their care.

The collection process has been a thorny issue for the hospital sector, erupting into a full-blown crisis as it did with Fairview Health in Minnesota, and pushing organizations such as the Healthcare Financial Management Association, to issue guidelines. Some hospitals and hospital systems have tried to be more aggressive in their collection strategies, such as by asking for cash from patients upfront. But others providers have tried a softer touch on collections.

To learn more:
- read the Becker's Hospital CFO article 
- check out the Washington Community Action report (.pdf)