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Baylor, Scott and White increases collections through price transparency

System shifts cost estimation, financial assistance and post-discharge collections to an automated framework.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

In an era of high deductibles, Baylor, Scott & White Health has managed to pull off an enviable hat trick: It has increased collections, reduced the cost to collect and has improved its patient satisfaction in the process.

In large part, the health system owes this performance to increased price transparency and automation of core processes.

Sarah Knodel, Baylor Scott & White Health's vice president of revenue cycle, said automating processes related to patient financial communication helps to streamline the revenue cycle and create a more consistent patient experience. Cost estimation, financial assistance qualification and post-discharge collections have all been shifted to an automated framework, which helps the system improve the patient financial experience -- before and after a visit.

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The increase in price transparency hasn't gone unappreciated. Because benefits and rates are no longer vague and disparate, patients have been better about paying their bills. That has buoyed upfront collections, said Knodel.

"If a person is seeking care from us, regardless of the setting, we need to be able to help them understand their insurance benefits and how those benefits, coupled with our pricing and contract rates, impact the out-of-pocket costs associated with their care," she said. "It can be a challenging process for a patient to navigate, so we see ourselves as advocates for ensuring our patients understand the complete financial picture when seeking care at one of our locations."

What's particular about the pricing approach is that the solution is inexpensive to implement, which for Baylor, Scott and White made the investment an easy decision.

"Most price estimation tools are web-based solutions, so there's no capital expense," said Knodel. "Typically, pricing is based on a monthly subscription cost, which makes it easy to budget for. In addition to the transparency in providing patients with more accurate and complete estimates, many organizations also experience an increase in point-of-service collections. There are multiple benefits for implementing this technology and a clear return on investment."

[Also: Revenue cycle departments must be more patient-centered to succeed, experts say]

In addition to the financial benefits, the approach has garnered a positive reaction from patients. In an era in which patients are consumers, that's an important benefit.

"The feedback has been positive from patients," said Knodel. "They like when we are able to provide them with an estimate in advance of a scheduled service. For patients who are price shopping to determine where they will receive care, they like having a self-service option on our website and through our mobile application for obtaining an estimate for their service."

The clinicians like the approach, too

"Clinicians like that we're adopting the proactive approach and informing their patients of the cost of their care," she said. "As the industry continues to evolve, these tools aren't 'nice-to-haves' anymore. They simply are becoming the expectation of our consumers."

Twitter: @JELagasse