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How Should You Discuss Medical Bills with Patients?

Rene Letourneau, for HealthLeaders Media, November 4, 2013

The best practices will also help providers determine if a patient is eligible for charity care, thereby saving the resources that otherwise would have been spent on collections efforts, Fifer says.

"We have evidence to suggest that providers who have already adopted these best practices have increased point-of-service collections, but it is not just about collections. It's about getting the patient into the right situation. If having that conversation early on enables a provider to know that a patient is eligible for charity care, they won't have to go through the whole billing process," he says.

The new practices were developed by a steering committee that includes leaders from HFMA, the Patient Advocate Foundation, the American Hospital Association, Harvard Medical School, America's Health Insurance Plans.

Pat Keel, senior vice president and CFO at Good Shepherd Health System in Longview, TX, was on the steering committee and says the experience was "eye opening" because so many constituencies were represented.

"It was really interesting to hear people's perceptions of what conversations should take place and when," she says.

From her vantage point as a healthcare leader responsible for the financial health of her organization, Keel believes there is a lot of value in the guidelines.

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