Registrars at Cape Coral (FL) Hospital are seeing many more patients who are uninsured. Other patients are underinsured due to high-deductible plans. “We have an increased focus on charity care now more than ever,” says Jamie Bruner, MHSA, manager of registration services. Patient access uses this process to identify the need for financial assistance early:
- Either the patient or the physician’s office calls central scheduling to make the appointment. At that point, insurance has not been verified, making a second call from patient access necessary.
- Patient access calls the patient to review their coverage and out-of-pocket expenses in detail.
“Many patients do not have a complete understanding of coinsurance, deductibles, and copays,” Bruner says, noting all this information is reviewed with the patient. “It is during this conversation that we learn whether or not the patient will need assistance through our financial assistance program.”
For urgent or emergent services that cannot be postponed, staff complete the application on the patient’s behalf. “We determine how much assistance we are able to offer,” Bruner says. Patients receiving simple diagnostic services that do not require an appointment are counseled at the time of service. Self-pay patients who come to the ED can complete a financial assistance application before discharge or admission. Patient access builds a relationship with the patient from the first impression forward. “We communicate that we care and are here to help,” Bruner says. “Technology has greatly enhanced our ability to plan for patients who need a revenue cycle patient advocate.”
The patient access team receives information faster than ever with automated processes and electronic price estimation tools. “We can better prepare and, in turn, better prepare patients for their expected out-of-pocket expense,” Bruner reports.
Staff who financially screen, counsel, and educate patients are in a patient access team lead role already. These employees need two skills to succeed in their jobs: technical expertise and excellent customer service. “Only staff who are determined to be skilled for this type of financial counseling are used to assist patients,” Bruner says.
Patients appreciate receiving a price estimate, financial counseling, and financial screening all at the same time. “This type of assistance should not be offered in a fragmented way,” Bruner offers.