“I don’t want to have to deal with patients! If that’s what I have to do to get more revenue in, I don’t want it. At that point all I want is for the collection company to send me the money!” These were the words spoken by a business office manager from a large hospital, at a healthcare conference I once attended.
I was trying to explain that treating patients in collections more humanely and opening the door for them to work with their hospital directly yields triple (and greater) fruit from the process. She didn’t care. Later, I wondered how her boss would have felt, had they been around to overhear her…
When Patients Become Just a Number
I must admit, it shocked me. I understand how sometimes when you’re dealing with a large base of patients, they can sometimes slip into the category of becoming a ‘number‘. But don’t we always hate it when we’re treated that way? Bear in mind, I was trying to appeal to this woman’s fiscal sense… much less trying to inspire her humanity towards the people who had come to her facility for help.
The point is, that when you respect what families (reasonably) want who are having difficulty paying their hospital bill, they’ll work with you. It’s that simple. And when you don’t, you get abysmal results.
That’s part of the reason why hospitals get an appallingly low 4% to 6% recovery rate in the collections phase of patient-payor balances. As we talk with hospitals nationwide, that’s pretty much what they’re getting – before they try some simple new methods. Simple like, assuring payment plans are available once patients go to collections. And allowing these patients to pay their hospital directly if they want.
Today, with the Affordable Care Act, and reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, all coupled with the rising costs a hospital faces, getting the most from every aspect of your revenue cycle is imperative. We’re way past the point of luxury now. A state of mind the woman above was clearly in.
What Leaders ‘Face’
When you look into the faces of your staff, are you considering what you’d do if some of them are suddenly not there due to layoffs? Are you considering the repairs and upgrades necessary to keep your facility running efficiently? I know if you’re an Administrator or CFO you are, because that’s your perspective. You got where you are by looking at such things, and the aspects of reality that go with them.
While I’m sure your business office manager is onboard with how important every dollar is today, what if that manager mention above was in your administration? How could you assure your staff is focused on your vision? It’s simple.
I encourage you to take a few minutes each week, and just mingle with your front-line staff; the ones who interface directly with patients relative to billing payments. We’ll get to why in just a moment. As you read, I want you to remember a line from a movie I saw a few years ago. “People are a reflection of their leadership.” It’s true.
The most inspired people on any team are always the ones who believe in what their leadership believes in. And how are your people going to know what you believe, if you don’t express it to them? Do so in a casual atmosphere. Drop by a few desks on occasion. It’s far better than trying to communicate a sense of purpose in a big staff meeting. And God help you if you just put out a memo. Memos don’t inspire. Not like honest beliefs and personal contact do.
Help your people, who work with patients on making payments, understand how important they are to you. Share your vision of what their job means, and your compassion for patients (even when they owe the hospital money). Build the vision of interdependence hospitals and patients have with one another today. Your consideration for patients and how they’re handled will emanate and raise standards.
Always remember: people really are a reflection of their leadership. And communicating a sense of purpose to them personally, in their own environment, inspires their vision.