Maintaining patient satisfaction is very important in today’s healthcare environment, given how new quality standards associated with HCAHPS surveys can directly affect Medicare reimbursement levels for providers.

Even though these surveys are tied to the patient’s actual visit with a doctor or hospital, studies have shown that the billing process can have a big impact on those results.

Providers’ billing practices and revenue management information systems have not received the attention that electronic health records have garnered in recent years, but the shift in attention to patient satisfaction highlights the need for healthcare organizations to put renewed emphasis on systems that support the business office and patient billing.

Consolidation within healthcare has complicated efforts to harmonize billing efforts, in part because of the difficulties of enabling information systems to work together. Over the last several years, mergers, acquisitions and affiliations have created siloed patient accounting departments in these new healthcare organizations. When a patient goes to see a physician and then has a procedure at a different facility, that patient often receives two different bills that require two calls to different patient accounting offices. The patient only sees this as one healthcare provider, and he or she typically doesn’t understand why different bills come from different places. This hurts patient satisfaction, and thus reimbursements, along with return business for providers.

As providers take action to build patient satisfaction through their billing processes, consider these three steps:

Standardize the process by which patients interact with you
When a patient interacts with a provider, a full picture of their accounts should be made available to them. For example, if a physician bill and a hospital bill exist, the patient should be able to call or visit a website to see and resolve both in one place. This also applies to information about pending accounts: Visits that are pending insurance, or were initially denied and are being appealed, should also be visible to the patient in the same place. Providing the patient with one stop to get all the answers to their billing questions is the key.

Providing the patient with a single statement for all services
The ability to send a single statement is important, since multiple bills from physicians and hospitals create confusion and often frustration. Last year, 65 percent of patients polled during a Transunion survey stated that clear, easy-to-understand bills would impact their decision to choose one provider over another. Those results serve to highlight how an organization that can produce a single statement for all health system services can truly improve overall satisfaction with the billing process.

Provide multiple ways for patient to interact with you
Today’s world is different than it was 10 years ago, when calling or visiting the local business office were the most common ways for a patient to get answers to their questions in real-time. Today, patients prefer to interact with a business in many different ways, including IVR, website, mobile app, call center and more. As a result, demographic considerations need to be taken into account as an organization designs its billing process. For example, younger generations increasingly prefer to interact via mobile app, with a tendency to view their phones as computers. To obtain the highest possible patient satisfaction ratings for a health system, it is important to provide patients with multiple channels to obtain information.

Patient satisfaction is going to continue to grow in importance over the next four years, as Medicare reimbursement and return business continue to be driven by how patients view the billing process.

Combining siloed patient accounting processes, providing a single statement for all visit types and enabling patients to interact with your health systems using their preferred channels can help you obtain the highest patient satisfaction rates as you pursue these goals.

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