Why You Must Have Someone in Your Office Who Can Discuss the Patient’s Account (with the Patient)
I recently had an experience at my doctor’s office where I had a problem with my account.
Actually, I had been questioning why I hadn’t gotten a refund for 2 months but was told both times I was in the office by the receptionist that she would “send a message to the biller to correct this.”
When I arrived at the doctor’s office this time, I asked about the $50 credit that I was owed and was told by the receptionist she would again “send a message to the biller.”
I lost my cool!
Please understand, it takes a lot for me to lose my cool. It especially takes a lot for me to lose it in a doctor’s office, as I feel I intimately understand the inner workings of practices, especially the challenges practice face.
- First I asked if the receptionist could explain the problem to me. She couldn’t.
- Next I asked if I could speak to the biller. This office’s biller works off site, and when I asked if I could speak with her, the receptionist stated “We don’t know when she is near the phone.” I was given the biller’s phone number to call her.
- Finally, I asked for a copy of my account to review. The receptionist wasn’t sure if she could print a copy, but she said she would try, and if she could, she would have it for me when I had completed my appointment. In the meantime, she asked me for my co-pay.
So what advice do I, as a patient, have to give to medical offices?
- If your billing staff is offsite, educate onsite staff to answer 80% of patient questions. Some questions need a specialized person to answer, but the majority are straightforward. Your receptionist should not have that deer-in-the-headlights look when a question about a bill is posed.
- Connect patients who have questions to your offsite billing staff while the patient is in your office. Don’t let the patient leave the office feeling that their concern has not been addressed.
- If you are asking your patients to pay at time of service, you need to refund their over-payments with as much speed as you collected their money. Would I leave my physician over $50? I might.
I own a medical billing company, we send patient statements with a toll free number to call for patients with questions. This sounds like a poorly managed physicians office, certainly not typical of a professionally managed medical billing company. And yes, we do alert our clients when they need to write a patient refund.
Patients can call us anytime.
The reality is that many healthcare firms have sent their revenue cycle work offshore and do not want their patients to have ANY contact with their contractors in India or Malaysia. They don’t want their patients to have to listen to yet one more poor English speaking rep who doesn’t have a clue about their account, doesn’t know how to help, and has no empowerment. It’s a race to the bottom in customer service.
Small firms who retain revenue cycle in their offices with strong competent management with laser focus on customer service will win this race. Never miss and opportunity to “wow” your patients. Unfortunately many practices never miss an opportunity to insult their patients.
Great article, and as an owner of a third party billing company I assure my clients that we are available at least 95% of the time if a patient has a question while in the doctor’s office. The office staff can connect with us at time of question. In addition we use a web based practice management system which allows the office staff to view what we are viewing as we explain or answer their question. We also have our number on all statements that go out to patients and encourage them to call us when any questions they may have. I agree that it is of paramount importance that the patient feels confident that their billing questions will be answered immediately.
Comprehensive Revenue Solutions
It sounds as if you have found some really good solutions to making your team available to your clients’ patients. Kudos!
Being able to quickly address patient concerns with the billing process is not rocket science and should be something that is readily available in all provider offices – shortening the revenue cycle is important on the provider side and being able to address patient concerns is just simple good customer service and should not be a difficult thing to accomplish on a daily basis – to use a sports analogy it is just simple blocking and tackling.
I agree with you. Front desk staff need customer service skills related to billing questions, but many are not trained in the basics.
Thanks for your comment.
First and most importsnt, the office staff need to be trained know to handle questions when their office out sources billing and collections
As a medical practice executive and consultant I recommend in house over out sourcing, it is more personal for medical practices to have their patients see and speak to a person who is employed by the Physician or group, who has an understanding of the practice and the expectations of the physician or group, however, out sourcing can work too, depending upon the company and their track record, I recomend references from other colleagues you know who have used them.
Good points! Thanks for commenting.