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The case for standardizing best practices in discussing a patient's financial obligation

Dissatisfaction generally occurs when a patient feels misled or not fully informed prior to service.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

It's becoming increasingly apparent that more than the medical care a patient receives determines how he or she views the quality of their experience.

The road to patient satisfaction is, in fact, paved with all things that start from an accurate preauthorization, a thorough financial counseling session or estimate, a courteous front of house service through the medical care itself, all the way to getting the bill that you expect and the billing department's previous projections holding true.

Standardizing best practices for communicating about a patient's financial obligation might not sound like much fun, but it's a win for everybody, according to Pattie Consolver, Director of Strategic Revenue Services - Patient Access at Texas Health Resources.

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When communication between staff and patients is more effective and more transparent prior to service and earlier in that registration process, then it decreases the number of questions at the time of registration, at the time of service, during or after. Standardizing best practices positively affects overall operations

"If we can eliminate the extra steps and communication after service than its a plus for everybody. Patient experience, for reimbursement, for everything, because it's taken care of in the earlier stages of registration."

The benefits of standardization impact staff significantly as well. All staff are on the same page, using the same processes and protocols, the same scripting across the board at all of their hospitals.

"Standardization makes them more confident. They don't have the questions that they seem to have when they're making up their own scripting or they are trying to understand things differently. It just makes them more confident in how they're explaining things to the patient. Less confusion less questions and more confident because they know the answers. It's just a win for everybody."

The bottom line she said, is it's just good business, especially in an industry where trust directly impacts the bottom line. In her experience, Consolver said usually the biggest dissatisfier for a patient is when they feel like they were misled or were not given the full amount of information in the beginning prior to service. 

"Once that service happens, it doesn't matter whether the estimate was off by five dollars, they can feel mislead or that they were given incorrect information," she added. "And it usually takes five to ten calls to get some type of resolution. Whatever we can do to minimize that it is better for the patient, the physician's office or the hospital."

At the upcoming HIMSS and Healthcare Finance Revenue Cycle Solutions Summit, Patti Consolver will be speaking in the session, "The Impact of Standardizing Best Practices in Patient Financial Communications," at 2:45 p.m. March 5 at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. Register here

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
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