nThrive Webinar Recap: 5 Best Practices for Establishing a Patient-Centric Bad Debt Collections Program

By Olivia Currin-Britt, Director, Revenue Cycle Solutions, nThrive and Chad Jansen, Director, Patient Responsibility, nThrive | Posted: 03/14/2019

Bad Debt Collections

A recent Black Book survey estimated that patient health care costs – including deductibles and out-of-pocket maximum expenses – have increased by almost 30 percent since 20151. A separate study reported that 68 percent of patients failed to fully pay off medical bill balances in 2016 – up from 53 percent in 20152. On top of this increase in patient liability, 81 percent of patients report frustration with medical bills3, resulting in poor patient satisfaction. Compounding these issues throughout the continuum of care makes it that much more challenging for hospitals and medical organizations to resolve aged accounts and collect on every dollar owed.

During a recent nThrive health care webinar hosted by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) Region 2 chapter, Olivia Currin-Britt, nThrive director of revenue cycle solutions, and Chad Jansen, nThrive director of patient responsibility, provided key insights on how a holistic, best-in-class bad debt collections program that combines strategy, education, technology and services can empower patients while drastically improving revenue cycle health and success.

5 Best Practices for Establishing a Patient-Centric Bad Debt Collections Program

Successful businesses put their customers first and nThrive believes that is true of health care as well. When a hospital leverages an outside revenue cycle management company to manage bad debt collections, patients should experience and view that partner as a natural extension of the hospital.

When consumers – in this case patients – understand why they owe a balance and what the balance is for, they are much more likely to pay. Front-line staff who deal with patients directly need to understand this and must be able to explain complex charges, EOBs, co-insurance and deductibles to help address patient concerns that may delay payment.

  1. Identify Health Insurance Eligibility: Before any patient outreach for payment occurs, hospitals should identify any potential insurance coverage available to the patient. Any medical billing errors or insurance eligibility issues should be resolved as soon as possible before engaging the patient or guarantor over the phone or through mail to collect the patient balance.
  2. Create a One-Call Resolution: Any conversation with a debt collector should be orchestrated as painless as possible. The goal should be not only to get the account resolved but to resolve it during the first encounter with the patient. Staff should provide guidance to the patient, help determine what they can afford and establish a schedule for consistent payment.
  3. Offer Compassionate Payment Plans: Compassionate, high-quality payment programs help achieve the desired result of a balance paid in full. Setting payment terms that aren't reasonable or feasible for a patient can often yield the opposite of the desired outcome. When providers take a proactive approach on the front-end to identify the amount patients are able to pay, they can set up a compassionate payment plan to get the balance paid in full. This best practice avoids the need for additional letters and time-consuming phone calls that attempt to force the patient to commit to a monthly payment.
  4. Leverage Technology: Today’s patients are consumers who demand to be at the center of their health care services with access to the convenience of technology. So, it’s no surprise that 67 percent of patients prefer to pay medical bills online either through a health system or their bank4. Patients and guarantors want options to pay their medical bills and frequently ask to use web-based payment portals or to make payments via phone calls. When phone calls are an option, nThrive leverages speech analytics and a non-biased third-party quality assurance company to identify high-level compliance concerns and audit more than 90 percent of inbound and outbound calls. Reviewing these calls help representatives refine their techniques and improve overall strategy.
  5. Communicate Electronically: Traditional snail mail is no longer the most effective method for billing patients. In our digital age, electronic payment notices and reminder letters are sounder methods to reach tech-savvy consumers who appreciate receiving these options that let them immediately respond and make payments.

Partnering with nThrive’s industry-leading revenue cycle management solutions can help you resolve aged accounts today. This cost-effective partnership will help establish a successful bad debt collections program at your health care organization. nThrive has helped clients drive quality improvement in healthcare by boosting operational efficiency and reducing total cost to collect by 10 percent while increasing net revenue by up to 5 percent. If you’re ready to take steps to improve patient satisfaction and accelerate your collections, contact us at solutions@nthrive.com or 678-323-2500.

1 Black Book™ 2017 Revenue Cycle Management Survey

2 TransUnion Healthcare, “Patients May Be the New Payers, But Two in Three Do Not Pay Their Hospital Bills in Full,” June 26, 2017

3 nThrive focus groups

4 Becker’s Hospital Review, “Most Health Systems Don’t Offer Upfront Cost Information to Patients, Survey Finds,” February 27, 2019