Point-of-service collections don’t decrease satisfaction if registrars act as the patient’s advocate, according to patient access leaders interviewed by Hospital Access Management.
- Determine if accounts qualify for an exception to charity policies.
- Offer options to insured patients who can’t afford deductibles.
- Educate clinicians that patients have a right to make informed financial decisions.
When patient access employees started point-of-service collections at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, IL, complaints were “few and far between,” says Nicole Fountain, CRCE-I, CHAM, revenue cycle director.
The complaints Fountain did receive came not from patients, but from her own employees. “If we could do it all over, we would have done a great deal more education for all of our employees, in all departments,” she says.
Fountain was surprised to learn how many employees did not understand how their own insurance plan works. “We recommend starting there,” she says.
Some employees felt strongly that collecting from patients didn’t align with the hospital’s mission. “In fact, some even suggested they would talk to our sisters about it — we are a Catholic facility — because they believed what we were doing was wrong,” says Fountain. In reality, says Fountain, “the sisters fully support our point-of-service collection initiatives.”
Many providers view financial issues as distinctly separate from clinical care and believe that it should not be discussed until care is completed. “We have even heard from providers who don’t want us to discuss financial costs with patients because they might choose not have a service if they think they can’t afford it,” says Fountain.
AN INFORMED DECISION
Fountain has made a point of educating registrars and caregivers about the patient’s right to information, so they can make an informed decision.
“You wouldn’t have surgery without knowing the clinical risks,” says Fountain. “Patients deserve to know the financial risks, also.”
If clinicians don’t understand, they might take a dim view of collections and express this view to patients. “If your patients mention something to a caregiver about point-of-service collections, you might be surprised what that employee will say to the patient,” says Fountain.
For this reason, Fountain recommends that patient access managers make sure that technicians, nurses, and physicians understand what the department is doing and why. “If they are acting as your advocates, you will be much more successful,” she says.