Too often, busy medical practices forget to connect and communicate with patients in a meaningful way that can lead to a much better patient-physician relationship, especially in regards to payments and obtaining lab results or medical records.
Patients want and need to know what your expectations of them are. They want to have a connection with your office and to be able to communicate with you in an effective way. Being proactive by providing concise policies upfront can improve patient relationships as well as reduce time spent on avoidable and costly issues.
Traditionally, physicians have spent little time communicating with patients outside of office visits. However, offices can make positive significant changes that will enhance the value of the practice to the patient while improving communications with clear office policies that ultimately improves your collections.
For some, a patient’s only means of communicating with their healthcare provider is over the phone talking with a staff member or during an office visit. Unless a practice specifically communicates office policies or test results, patients often have to call their doctor’s office. Communicating office policies on obtaining results can prevent unnecessary phone calls and wasted staff time.
If you take the time to provide all the necessary information to patients, along with your expectations from the beginning, your practice will operate more efficiently, requiring fewer phone interruptions and easily avoidable problems that can be a drag on practice income and employee morale.
Although this is far from a complete list, here are some policy examples you may want to communicate to patients:
• Requirements and importance of maintaining current account information (address, insurance, responsible party)
• Types of payments you accept (cash, credit cards, checks) by fax, mail, website options
• Returned check fees
• Obtaining medical records and fees
• Billing cycle information
• Hardship discount application and documentation
• Services for minor children (who is responsible, who can obtain records, etc.)
• Delinquent accounts
• Missed appointments
• Hours of operation
• After-hours and on call coverage
• Referrals and or forms completion
• Billing inquiries
• Self-pay accounts
• Secondary claims filing
• Circumstances for discharged patients (delinquent or not following doctor’s advice)
• How codes for visits are selected based on AMA guidelines
Patients don’t like surprises anymore than doctor’s offices do. Provide patients with the information they need to know up front and regularly. Refer them to the information when they have questions. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of valuable time and effort explaining things and preventing unnecessary disruptions to your practice. This also prevents patients from doing an end-run to the doctor asking for discounts and freebies – he/she can simply refer the patient to the office policies.