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How Should You Discuss Medical Bills with Patients?

Rene Letourneau, for HealthLeaders Media, November 4, 2013

Keel says response from the provider community to the idea of standardizing communications practices around patient medical bills has generally been encouraging.

"I think to a large degree the reaction has been positive," she says. "Hospitals are looking for ways to have better clarity and direction on how to deal with patients, particularly in sensitive situations."

For his part, Fifer believes it is good for hospitals to have a greater awareness of how difficult it can be for patients to understand the payment process.

"It's difficult for us to navigate through the revenue cycle process, and we're in the industry, so imagine what it's like for the vast majority of the community. It's overwhelming if you've never been around it before, which is why it is important to provide some upfront, clear, understandable communication with patients."

Fifer also notes that the release of the best practices was not timed to coincide with the rollout of health insurance exchanges.

"There really is no linkage with the Affordable Care Act," he says. "These best practices work in any environment and with any payment mechanism, [and] any insurance coverage whether it's Medicare, Medicaid, employer-based insurance, or patients who are not insured. The timing was such that it was a body of work we were anxious to get done and get out there, and by chance, it happened when the exchanges went online."

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