Collecting Patient Payments – What is your Patient Population’s Financial Identity? 

Collecting patient payments is a challenge for most of the healthcare organizations we talk to. Often we find that their financial policies, initially built to make patient payment collection possible, are actually keeping patients from making payments on their balances. These financial policies are usually built with a one-size-fits-all mentality, and that approach fails to address the diverse needs of a diverse patient population. 

Even though all your patients may share similar traits, they are not part of a homogenous group. Creating a patient financial policy that responds to the distinct groups in your patient population is a great place to start improving your patient payments. 

Who are your Patients Financially? 

What’s the best way to segment your diverse patient population? 

We recommend starting with ability to pay. Several distinct groups emerge when you examine your patient population through this lens, and each group has different needs with regard to financial policy. By considering these groups, you can create a workable patient financialy policy that addresses the unique needs of your patients when it comes to collecting payment. 

Creating policies that adapt to all groups will also help avoid confusing exceptions to rules and create a process that is both clear to staff and fair to patients. 

The Easy Pay Group 

The first group to examine is the Easy Pay Group. These patients have the ability and desire to pay. All they really need is simple access to your organization’s preferred method of payment and they will make their payments. 

Removing all barriers to making payments and providing simple, easily accessibly ways to pay will increase payments collected from this group. 

How to make patient payments easier for this group: Make use of balance resolution tools 

  • Place a payment button on your website 
  • Offer automated payment plan options 
  • Be able to accept as many different payment types as possible 

The Challenged Pay Group 

The second group is the Challenged Pay Group. These patients want to make their payments, but they have limited means to pay and making their payments can be challenging. While these patients will benefit from balance resolution tools, they are often not enough to ensure prompt payment. This group will usually complete their payments before the intervention of a third party collection agency, though some patients might be in serious financial distress. 

How to make patient payments easier for this group: Intervene early 

  • Ensure balance resolution tools are accessible 
  • Have interventions and payment options available at time of service 
  • Be willing to coax and nudge with compassion 

The Inability to Pay Group 

This group simply does not have the means to pay for most or all of their portion of healthcare costs. Leading with compassion is the key to success for collecting patient payments from this group. Whether patients are in the group through situations beyond their control or through their own actions, consideration and a clear policy lead to the highest success. 

How to make patient payments easier for thie group” Lead with compassion and have a well developed financial plan 

  • Address the group at the beginning of care rather than months or years post treatment 
  • Be kind and considerate when discussing financials 
  • Develop clear policies outlining discounted rates for this group 

The Refuse to Pay Group 

The final group is hopefully the smallest. Typically, those that fall into the Refusal to Pay Group fall into one of two scenarios. Some are manipulative, and those might respond to third party collections, especially if the bill is large. Others in the group might perceive that they have been mistreated during their care, and these patients require careful consideration because heavy handed collection techniques could cause additional complaints. 

How to make patient payments easier for this group: Engage a collection agency and attorneys if needed 

  • Engage a collection agency 
  • Run credit scores to determine cost effective actions 
  • Consult with a healthcare attorney if collection agency methods fail 

Understanding and segmenting your patient population’s financial identity is crucial for improving payment collections at your organization. By moving away from a one-size-fits-all policy and instead leading with empathy and tailoring your approach to the distinct financial needs of your patients, you can create a more effective and compassionate payment collection process. Looking for guidance on processes and payment types? Download our free guide “Making Patient Payments Easier” to learn more!