After helping several of our own clients through Single Business Office (SBO) conversions, we’ve found that one critical element of the implementation process tends to be oversimplified – the billing statement.
When RCM professionals settle for a “standard” statement design during conversion, they ignore the unique communication challenges of a consolidated billing environment.
And as a result, these organizations run the risk of increased patient calls, delayed patient payments, and decreased patient satisfaction.
Effectively communicating with patients in this format is not impossible, but it does merit its own distinct strategy.
Here are some of the key challenges health systems should prepare for when designing or redesigning their SBO patient statement series – and some tips to improve their effectiveness.
Design Essentials for SBO Patient Statements
Challenge #1: Connecting the balance to the occurrence and location
When physician and hospital charges are combined within the same communication, patients have difficulty understanding which balance correlates with which facility and occurrence.
First, using white space and dynamic color can help visually segment information and reduce patient confusion in any billing environment. This approach holds true in the SBO environment as well.
However, what is unique to SBO statements is the need to clarify charges by location or facility.
To make this connection, our clients utilize “icon-like” graphics, based on their data file. This approach makes it easy for patients to see how their charges break-down by service location.
Challenge #2: Clearly communicating the age of each balance
The amount of information presented to patients in an SBO bill can make it difficult to understand what they owe – or at least what they owe now. This is especially true in a communication that contains multiple occurrences.
As we noted in a previous post, the last thing a health systems want is for a patient to be placed in bad debt because he or she did not understand the timeline of their outstanding account(s).
To provide clarity to their patients, our clients leverage highlight colors and account-specific messaging, such as “Past Due” or “Final Notice” as an occurrence ages within the collection process.
This helps patients clearly distinguish which balances are delinquent and which are current.
Challenge #3: Explaining how patient payments will be applied
By the same token, patients unable to pay the complete balance on their bill will want to know how partial payment will be applied to their overall balance. To avoid unnecessary patient calls to your business offices, ensure that this information is prominently displayed within your billing statement design.
Finally, it is important to note that a health system’s ability to implement these design enhancements is dependent on the file output they select during their software conversion.
Choosing the best file output for your SBO conversion (PDF vs. FTF)
PDF Output – A PDF file format allows for a shorter conversion timeline. Therefore, this is the option most software providers will suggest.
However, any programming or dynamic design changes (like those mentioned above) are limited to the experience, capabilities, and workload capacity of the health system’s internal resources.
FTF (Formatted Text File) Output
A FTF format can lengthen a health system’s conversion timeline. In our experience, this option is least suggested by software providers.
However, this format allows the health system to customize their data file and maximize the effectiveness of their patient communication, by relying on the experience of their communication solution partner.
In addition, as health systems look to refine their patient engagement strategies post-conversion, the FTF output provides the flexibility needed for future design optimization – ensuring they are able to meet the future communication needs of their organization.
In today’s Revenue Cycle marketplace, with limited resources and decreasing budgets, we believe choosing the correct partner as your patient engagement expert is more important today than it has ever been.
This partner should be able to communicate patient engagement trends, the latest in patient self-service technologies and how they will continue to optimize patient response post-conversion.
However, the way in which you decide to produce a data file (PDF or FTF) will have a significant impact on your success. This will either greatly enhance your ability to navigate and respond quickly to changing needs, or increase the work load and burden on your staff.
To see examples of the SBO design tips covered in this article, feel free to email me directly at:firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Casey is the Vice President of Direct Healthcare Sales at RevSpring. He has spent his 14+ years in the RCM space developing customized patient engagement and payment strategies for healthcare clients.