Patients create their own estimates
Patients at Danville, PA-based Geisinger Health System can create their own estimates online via a self-serve portal, MyEstimate.
"This provides patients with out-of-pocket estimates on nearly 300 services," says Barbara Tapscott, vice president of revenue management.
After patients enter their insurance information, estimates are tailored to the verified benefit coverage and the location of the service requested. Patients can select a hospital, a hospital-based clinic, a physician's office, or an ambulatory surgery center for their estimate.
"The Geisinger product provides a combined estimate, in that it includes hospital and physician expenses," says Tapscott. Because the patient's insurance is verified, the estimate takes into consideration negotiated insurance rates rather than gross charges. If the patient is uninsured, or if a service is unlisted, MyEstimate directs the patient to a financial counselor. The counselor can be accessed by a toll-free number, by creating an online request, or by visiting a Geisinger location.
"Financial counselors can assist uninsured patients with alternative funding options, such as state program enrollment," adds Tapscott.
Cost is not only factor in choice
Let patients know they'll be well-cared for
When prospective patients call to ask about cost, Susan Smith, CHAA, a benefit representative for patient access at Cox Medical Center Branson (MO), not only does everything in her power to give the best information she possibly can. "I also promote the additional advantages and experience that our facility has to offer," she says.
Smith does the following:
. She "upsells" the involved department.
"The patient needs to understand they will be well taken care of while at our facility," says Smith.
She regularly checks with outpatient service departments about the combined years of experience of that particular department. Then, she shares those specifics with patients. "I explain that we have long-term technicians who take pride in their jobs and care about their patient," says Smith.
She adds that technicians are constantly receiving patient feedback on how comfortable they make patients feel and the level of professionalism displayed. "I let the patient know that a technician will be happy to talk them through their procedure, and answer any procedural questions they may have," says Smith.
. She lets patients know that their time is valued.
Smith explains that anyone waiting past their scheduled time is encouraged to let front desk staff know. "Our staff will check for any situation that is causing a delay," she says.
For example, there are times when a "difficult draw" in another area of the hospital requires a lab technician, which results in a longer wait for lab patients. Likewise, an emergency scan can disrupt the scheduled patients' timeframes.
In these cases, says Smith, "our registrars inform the patients and let them know the expected wait time expected. We also let the patients know they can reschedule if they need to do so."
Always thank patient
Terri Miles, patient access manager at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare in Glendale, WI, says, "While we can't guarantee we won't lose a patient to a competitor if all they are considering is the cost, we still treat every inquiry following our 'always' behaviors."
These "always" behaviors are expected from staff: Smiling, making eye contact, greeting the patient, introducing yourself, communicating clearly, and verifying there is nothing else the patient needs when the process is completed.
Staff end every call by thanking the patient. "We are patient and courteous in that interaction," says Miles. "In no way does that caller get the feeling that their question to us was an inconvenience or bother."