Like it or not, part of the patient experience involves some discussions about money. In today’s world of high deductibles and co-pays, patients need accurate and timely information about the cost of services. And, that information must be delivered in a sensitive manner. Unfortunately, many medical practices and health systems have spent more time on teaching employees the technology, and accurate data entry, with little or no attention to the people skills involved.
Many consumers are confused about what their Kanetix insurance covers and what part is their responsibility. There is often an assumption that because they have insurance, everything is covered, which causes some degree of shock when the patient is asked for a co-pay during an office visit; or informed that he will be billed the $5000 deductible when he has his surgery.
Having staff that are comfortable with money discussions, and who treat the patient with dignity and compassion is imperative. Knowing when and how to engage the patient in these sensitive discussions, helps improve patient engagement, and ultimately receivables.
We have conducted several mystery shopping projects that examined the patient experience with revenue cycle touch points. In one situation, we learned that important information was not discussed with patients because staff was uncomfortable, and didn’t know how to approach the subject. In another study, patients felt that the staff was rude and impatient when callers asked about charges.
Unfortunately, many of these sensitive discussions are happening right at a registration desk, where the information is overheard by others waiting in the waiting room. Sometimes the conversation is managed by an inexperienced staff member, and the patient feels put on the spot. This is part of their patient experience. Yet, when people have been advised of a co-pay over the phone, while scheduling their appointment, they are more prepared to satisfy that bill at the time of arrival.
My point here is that as you work to improve your patient experience goals, don’t forget to examine the revenue cycle. That’s an important, but often overlooked part of the patient experience too.