For healthcare institutions and hospitals to be as efficient and helpful to the patient, they must employ proper patient care, accurate medical procedures, and correct diagnoses. Perhaps an even more critical element to be considered is the efficiency of communication systems between patients and providers, especially when intra-hospital providers are involved. One of the most compelling reasons for good communication channels is the concern for a patient's safety, but effective communication can also result in huge cost savings for your practice as your operating efficiency and collections increase.
What Causes Patient/Provider Communication Issues?
When it comes to the patient/provider relationship, there are a number of areas where communication challenges can arise. Oftentimes providers have a great in-office visit with their patient and think that’s enough to maintain the relationship, but they forget that patients have so many other touchpoints with their practice. Poor communication in any area, whether it’s the scheduling process, the authorization process, the provider visit, the post-procedure followup, or most importantly the billing process, can put providers at risk of losing that patient due to communication frustrations and a loss of trust.
How Communication Affects Your Bottom Line
Whether we want to admit it or not, good communication leads to trust between a patient and provider - and trust leads to higher bill collection. At the root of this trust, however, is a need for transparency. The reality is that nothing damages patient trust more than getting a surprise bill in the mail after services have already been rendered, and when there is transparency upfront about the cost of medical procedures a patient is more likely to trust their provider.
When you make a commitment to improving your practice’s communication process, understand that this means addressing issues within both your direct patient/provider communication and your billing process.
How To Improve Patient/Provider Communication
First and foremost, medical practices must communicate well and consistently not just during the billing process, but throughout the entire patient experience. From their initial scheduling encounter to their office visit a patient should have nothing but positive experiences, and clear communication plays a crucial role in this.
Understand that every patient is different, and you may find that different communication styles are necessary based on the specific needs of your patient. For each new patient that comes into your practice, a provider should assess the patient's communication skills. This assessment takes into account the patient's literacy, culture, language, and behavioral and physical barriers (visual or hearing impairment).
Once you have a better understanding of your patient’s communication style, keep this in mind during your interactions and make any necessary adjustments to your communication style. Proper understanding of the individual will lead to a better overall experience for the person as a patient.
Improving Your Billing Process & Communications
It takes time and effort to build that initial trust between your practice and a patient, so it’s crucial to ensure you don’t turn around and lose that hard-earned trust as soon as the appointment is over with a frustrating billing process. From a billing communications standpoint, all procedures should be streamlined and automated. Additionally, your pricing policy should be transparent and clearly communicated from the start.
When it comes to healthcare collections, consider each patient's financial constraints and train your staff to be more proactive and empathetic in their billing communications with patients, considering each patient’s specific situation and offering alternative payment options accordingly.
Improving communication at your practice - both with your patients and through your billing process - is no easy task, but it’s one that can have a huge impact on patient retention, your brand reputation, and your bottom line. If you’re struggling with patient communication, especially in your billing and collections process, consider looking into a platform like Wellpay that helps streamline/automate the entire collections and patient communication process for your practice while offering flexible payment plans for your patients.