Collections to top $8 million in 2013
Difficulty getting pricing info is challenge
Cash collections for admitting, the emergency department and financial counseling at University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City totaled $2.7 million in 2010. This increased to $5.2 million in 2012, and topped $8 million for fiscal year 2013.
Patient financial advocate Gabriele Thatcher, CHAA, credits this increase to accurate insurance verifications and upfront estimated patient liability amounts. "Allowing for a 10% prompt pay discount has also motivated more and more patients to pre-pay for their services," Thatcher adds.
The biggest collection challenge her department faces is lack of access to "completely updated, accurate, consistent, and reliable" pricing data from which to pull price estimates, she says. For example, radiology costs are not pulled from the hospital’s system, but rather, from a separate spreadsheet.
"Community clinics have their own and differing price lists that are used when giving estimates," adds Thatcher. "This can sometimes be confusing for patients." For example, radiology patients might need a procedure that is scheduled from a central location or phone number.
"There are cases where the patient is sent to a community clinic due to availability, but was already given a price estimate for a hospital’ location," says Thatcher.
Another example is of patients requesting a price estimate for a specialist new patient consultation before deciding whether to schedule an appointment. "Unfortunately, we are giving them a very broad answer with a price range of between $150 and $550, because we just do not know," says Thatcher.
This range is because the CPT code selected is left up to the physician and is selected based on the level of care the patient will require. Thatcher expects the hospital’s health information system will help to address these issues.
"More and more people are price shopping,’" says Thatcher. "I am excited for the prospect of using Epic to help us with these challenges in the near future."