Patient collections: Hospitals will have to make adjustments

Patients are expected to shoulder an ever-larger portion of their hospital bills, but a large percentage of those charges aren't collected, The Tennessean reported.

As much as 30 percent of total hospital charges could wind up being the patient's responsibility in the coming years, primarily as insurers continue to ramp up deductibles, co-payments and other out-of-pocket costs, according to the Tennessean.

The problem is that for every dollar a hospital bills a patient directly, 65 cents of it remains uncollected, the newspaper reported.

"People are not saving and people are going to need to plan for healthcare expenses just like they do for all kinds of services they already [pay for] out-of-pocket," Larry Van Horn, executive director of health affairs for Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School, told the Tennessean.

However, hospitals also have more of an obligation of being proactive in terms of collections. Hospitals also have to adapt to this new reality and be persistent but polite during the collections process, David Frederiksen, chief executive officer of PatientFocus, a company that provides payment plans for patients, told the newspaper.

Enrolling patients in payment plans and asking for upfront payments are becoming more popular collection methods. The not-for-profit hospital system Texas Health Resources closely trains its staff through recorded phone calls to hone their process for collecting payments. 

Experts also recommend hospitals avoid sending fragmented bills to patients from individuals physicians and labs. Vanderbilt University Medical Center is shifting over to sending single bills to patients and making charity care accommodations to patients who have insurance.

To learn more:
- read The Tennessean article