Nine Ways to Improve Patient Billing

Consumer research and expert analysis by the Patient-Friendly Billing Task Force (a collection of payers, vendors, and associations that includes the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) outline several steps to attack the billing problems that can delay patient payments. Suggested actions include:

  1. Updating patient packets.  Make sure credit and collection policies are described clearly.  Include a sample patient billing statement.
  2. Reviewing the registration process.  Try to obtain necessary information from patients as they check in or schedule appointments.  Reduce redundant forms.
  3. Informing patients.  Remind patients of their financial obligations and explain the insurance billing process.  Have them sign a “Responsible for Payment” clause.
  4. Involving physicians and staff.  A flow chart describing the Revenue cycle, from collecting a co-payment at the time of service to billing for a deductable or co-insurance amounts, can help physicians and staff understand their roles in the patient flow process.
  5. Giving patients clear billing statements.  Make sure summaries of services are easy to understand.  Avoid abbreviations and medical jargon.  List phone numbers and contact hours.
  6. Including return envelopes only when needed.  Sending return envelopes with statements that only explain a service just confuses patients.
  7. Considering longer billing-office hours.  Inviting patients to call with billing questions during evenings can improve collections and patient satisfactions.
  8. Hiring, training and motivating service-orientated staff.  Make sure employees understand what various forms are for and how to communicate effectively with patients.
  9. Understanding the new rules.  Work with payers and vendors to make sure your billing systems and practices comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) regulations.