Mayo, Geisinger work with patients to improve billing

Major health systems, including Minnesota's Mayo Clinic and Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, are meeting with patients to create easier-to-read bills, thereby improving collections and satisfaction, The Plain Dealer reported.

"The billing systems are very complex," Rick Gundling, vice president of healthcare financial practices at the Healthcare Financial Management Association, told The Plain Dealer in another article. "You have a lot of players involved in one person's care, and it gets confusing as to 'What part do I owe, what part does anybody owe,'" he said.

The association's patient-friendly billing project tested various bill formats and found patients are most receptive to single monthly statements listing all outstanding charges and payments.

With such feedback, the Cleveland switched to a one-bill system that brings together bills for the hospital, laboratory, specialist or primary care doctor, rather than a stack of separate bills, the Plain Dealer noted.

But a single statement doesn't mean simplicity, even for experienced healthcare professionals. For example, 84-year-old Ann Nash, a patient with 27 years of nursing experience, said Cleveland Clinic's one-bill system made paying bills even more confusing. Nash can't distinguish between what the insurance has already paid and what she, as the patient, still owes, the article noted.

Moreover, hospital executives struggle with creating simplified bills while using specific language and terminology required by private and public payers.

To address payment difficulties, Nevada's Humboldt General Hospital, which still uses bundled billing, is establishing a department to help patients understand their medical bills, Silver Pinyon Journal reported.

Before services, patients can visit the department to determine how much procedures could cost and how much financial responsibility they would bear. The department also can help with financial aid, if available and appropriate, the article noted.

With billing processes linked to long-term patient satisfaction, hospitals and health systems might want to experiment with single statements and other similar efforts to simplify medical bills.

For more:
- read the Plain Dealer article
- here's the Plain Dealer article on the HFMA
- read the Silver Pinyon Journal article