Billing transient patients challenge for rural facility

Staff take extra ID steps

Access staff at Memorial Hospital, a small, rural facility, face more than the usual challenge in ensuring that there's enough information to successfully bill patients, says Melissa Eberspacher, business office director.

"It's always difficult to track down patients who don't provide a lot of information, especially travelers who are just passing through the area via the nearby interstate," Eberspacher adds.

With those potential "no-pay folks," as well as with area residents who know they can't be turned away from the hospital clinic, staff at Memorial in Seward, NE, take extra care when gathering data, she says.

"We have tried to educate nursing staff to ask [transient patients] to stop by the billing office prior to leaving the facility," Eberspacher notes. "Then collection staff will re-ask questions, or get them to repeat things. They do a search program to verify the person's Social Security number, telephone number, and last known address.

"We also urge the business office staff and the nurse to get some form of identification," she adds. "If the person is uninsured, he or she may not have an insurance card."

Eberspacher says she is pushing for the establishment of policies and procedures for requesting some sort of estimated payment from the patient at the time of service.

At the clinic, she says, registration staff go over the patients' information with them, and say things like, "Can we take another number for you?" or "It shows in my notes that you've had some visits to us before, and the letters we sent to this address came back. Is there another place we can contact you?"

Meanwhile, Eberspacher adds, "we try to ask a lot of questions and let people know we will be looking for them for payment on the account."

[Editor's note: Melissa Eberspacher can be reached by email at mhcsmeberspacher@alltel.net.]