Healthcare costs are rising. More people are opting for higher deductible health insurance plans because they are, at least in the short term, more affordable. At the physician’s office, however, those patients who are met with requests for payments when they have not met their deductibles may experience “sticker shock,” particularly at the beginning of the plan year.
Ensuring that the independent physician and the practice’s office staff are able to communicate these costs to patients appropriately may become critical to the practice’s success. In today’s online world especially, patients who become frustrated with having to pay too much for healthcare tend to post their thoughts on review sites like Yelp and HealthGrades.
Helping patients understand their costs will help the independent physician with administrative tasks as well. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that “during the office day, physicians spent 27.0% of their total time on direct clinical face time with patients” with the rest of the time being spent on administrative duties. Freeing up some of that administrative time will enable the independent physician to spend more quality time with patients.
Communicating costs to patients can involve not only explaining deductibles, co-payments, and visit fees but also practice-related policies such as appointment no-show fees. If these policies are new, communication needs to happen immediately and frequently. The independent physician should take advantage of social media, email newsletters, the practice website, and other opportunities to get the word to existing and potentially new patients about fee-related policies.
The practice might also consider payment options, given the profusion of higher deductible plans among patients. Again, those payment options and the obligations associated with them should be clearly communicated at the time of the visit as well as through other channels such as social media, flyers in the office, and on the website.
Clear communication with patients, particularly regarding costs, can help the independent physician’s practice maintain positive, rewarding relationships with those patients.