Streamlining the billing process while making it more transparent for patients is a priority initiative for many of the ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) in Regent’s network. A case in point is Knightsbridge Surgery Center in Columbus, Ohio, and the work they’re doing to improve both communications and efficiency around patient billing.
Working within the center’s HST pathways financial and management software, the team at Knightsbridge is leveraging a functionality called the patient billing estimator. This is used to show patients an online estimate of what they will owe for an upcoming surgery based on their specific insurance information, and to encourage them to pay for the procedure upfront.
“The added transparency we’re able to share with the patient is a huge benefit,” says Nick George, administrator at Knightsbridge. “Healthcare is the only businesses in the world where you have something done, but you really don’t know what it will cost. It’s not like the supermarket where you go to buy a loaf of bread and see that it’s $3.49. With surgery, you don’t know what you’re spending until it’s spent. People are uneasy about that and it’s understandable.”
George says Knightsbridge started using the patient billing estimator solely for transparency reasons and initially saw a more mixed response from patients than expected.
“What you’re doing is bringing any frustration a patient would have with payment to the forefront, as opposed to sending them a bill two weeks after the procedure when they may be less emotional,” he explains. “So, it’s a little bit awkward, but most people appreciate the estimate as something they can hold onto and take home, so they’re not surprised later.”
In addition to letting patients know estimated costs, with the estimator they can pay online in advance as well. This feature is helping Knightsbridge meet its financial management goals.
“We recently moved to collecting upfront as opposed to post-operatively,” George says. “We’re using the patient billing estimator to ask that patients pay 80% of the estimate in advance, saying ‘your procedure is coming up and this is what you’re going to owe, please make a payment.’ We give them several ways to do that, they can call in or pay on the website as they’re entering their pre-op information.”
While early in implementation, George says advantages of the billing estimator system to the Knightsbridge center are significant: improved patient transparency, earlier collections, efficiencies in administrative labor, and a reduction in aging accounts receivable.
“We’re chasing less money on the backend,” says George, “and time is money. Even though it’s early in terms of the data, I think in the long run this is going to be much easier for our staff. And, if it means collecting money 20 or 30 days prior to what we would have on the backend, it may enable us to issue this month instead of in next month’s distribution, so sometimes that’s a benefit.”
Although it’s too soon to measure, George believes patient satisfaction will improve as well.
“A constant complaint on our previous satisfaction surveys was that we didn’t do well at explaining the financial situation. It’s tough because many patients don’t know their own insurance systems. And to be honest, the insurance system is complex, so I’m not blaming the patients. We think more transparency up front will help that situation, while helping the center as well.”
For information on Regent Surgical Health’s partnership with Knightsbridge Surgery Center, click here.