HFMA: Ways to improve patient collections

Hospitals must sharpen their skills--both technologically and socially--in order to improve their patient collections rate, according to a presentation at last week's Healthcare Finance Management Association (HFMA) virtual conference.

Danielle J. Williams, director of patient access for Christus St. Catherine Hospital in Katy, Texas, told an audience that keeping on top of patient interaction is the best way to ensure they pay for procedures. The hospital collects 80 percent of patient fees if requested during the pre-admission process. That drops to around 10 percent if the hospital doesn't start the collections process until post-discharge.

"You need to have a pre-admissions process in place," to help verify insurance and collect payments owed by the patient, Williams said. Christus St. Catherine has used a real-time insurance verification system for the past three years.

In addition to verifying coverage, Williams suggested healthcare systems extend credit to patients in the form of non-recourse loans.

It's also crucial to listen and be respectful to the patient's point of view during the collections process. "Listen to what the patient is saying, and don't make any unrealistic promises," Williams said.

To learn more:
- check out the HFMA virtual conference site