5 Ways To Help Healthcare Patients Avoid Medical Debt

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Unfortunately, patient debt equates to reduced revenue with high risk of non-recovery, so it's wise to help patients avoid accumulating medical debt. Most patients want to compensate their healthcare providers, but many find it increasingly difficult in these days of high deductible, high co-pay plans that already come with substantially higher price tags. In a 2011 report published by the medical financial consultancy, Deloitte, it was noted that, "Health Reform endeavors to increase the number of Americans who have health insurance. While this is great, what is concerning is the increase in bad debt from patients with insurance. In fact, the bad debt attributable to insured patients is steadily increasing over the past 3 years." These last six years have proven that this trend shows no sign of abatement.

To remain viable as a healthcare business, practices must implement strategies to ensure the patient portions of bills are collected before those revenue dollars become irretrievable. To avoid patient debt, the business manager should consider these four components of successful patient-pay compensation.


Many patients have new carriers and plans since the advent of the ACA. Often, they don't know their plan's benefits or suffer confusion about them. If they availed themselves of the exchanges, they may have little idea what their plan covers and how much they'll be obligated to pay out of pocket. Ultimately, it is the patients' responsibility to know their plans. However, contract jargon can impede understanding for a lot of people. Once you've verified their insurance, someone in your financial department or intake staff should explain their benefits, deductibles or co-insurance requirements


Patients need to know how much they're going to be liable for when they seek services. Depending on the situation, the front office should be able to generate a reasonable estimate of the cost of planned services and what the patient is likely to owe prior to rendering those services. By Informing them of their specific payment obligations, you help them gain clarity and to recover from possible sticker shock. They may need time to figure out how they will adjust and pay.

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Insurance Eligibility Verification

As part of an effort to collect patient obligations up front, the intake staff should screen for insurance eligibility at check in. As their plans or carriers may have changed, it's imperative to have the correct information and check it with the carrier before proceeding through the rest of the registration process.

Flexible Methods for Payments

As patients take on more of the financial responsibilities for their care, it's important to offer as many means by which to pay as practicable. If you offer a portal where patients can check their records and schedule appointments, they should also have the ability to pay through the portal, as well. As some accounts will inevitably end up with post-service balances, having the ability to make payments through the portal online from home may increase collection success. Also, for those cases where a patient can't pay up front or in full post-service, proposing to connect them with a financing partner could be the solution. While offering in-house financing can end up bringing more expenses on board, a third party company that offers short-term, no-interest plans or long-term, low-interest options will keep your cash flow safe while your patients make comfortable payments over time .

Check-In Kiosks

To facilitate these important components of your RCM, your practice may find that installing check-in kiosks can handle all of the processes that encourage and facilitate patient pay. A kiosk can allow patients to enter their demographics and insurance information upon arrival. Integrated into the office records management system, the kiosk can automatically verify the information against current records, retrieve benefit information and take co-pays or even collect past-due balances before clearing the patient for services.

Early adopters of the kiosk systems have found that patients generally like them. They can reduce waiting times and mistakes in the demographics during manual data entry. Also, they can authenticate carrier information, delineate benefit details, present and collect signatures on required forms, alert the patient to the co-pay due and take the payment. At the end of the check-in process, the kiosk can even administer a brief survey of patient satisfaction. Those practices that have implemented kiosks have reported surprising increases in collections of aging balances when patients return for service. They've also found that by making the registration process simple and easy, they lose fewer patients to the competition.

When practices increase billing transparency, offer clarity in what charges to expect and make account settlement easy, patients come to their appointments ready to take care of their portion of the bill. The fewer patient-pay receivables you have out there, the healthier your practice will be.