How to get payment from self-pay patients

While more hospitals get flak for aggressive collection practices and suing patients who can't pay bills and for nominal amounts, some organizations are finding better ways get paid, HealthLeaders Media reported.

For instance, San Diego-based Sharp Healthcare improved payment by giving patients tools to navigate federal and state payment sources at registration. The nonprofit integrated delivery system also changed its relationship with self-pay patients, helping them instead of "just trying to get their credit card information," according to Sharp's vice president of patient financial services Gerilynn Sevenikar. Sevenikar now gives all her self-pay letters a more friendly tone.

Another self-pay solution is segmenting the hospital's patient population for customized payment interventions. By doing so, Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center collected more than $12.5 million that would likely have been classified as uncompensated care. The trauma center has a cohesive patient payment strategy that makes sure appropriate applications are filed so patients can receive aid after discharge and will qualify if they return.

Improving upfront communication with self-pay patients also can help hospitals maximize this increasingly important revenue source. "Our financial counselors will explain options upfront like payment plans and discounts for early cash pay and help them understand their health savings account, for example," Rebecca T. Black, vice president of revenue cycle at Saint Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta, told FierceHealthFinance in a previous interview.

Some hospitals like Palomar Health near San Diego are taking a softer approach to patient collections by offering financing and account management to help patients pay off their debts.

With billing processes linked to long-term patient satisfaction, hospitals and health systems might want to revamp their policies to not only collect more funds but also keep patients happy.

For more information:
- read the HealthLeaders article