The right patient statement design can be a remarkably powerful tool for healthcare business offices. Today’s RCM leaders are recognizing this opportunity, and looking for ways to capitalize on what has traditionally been an underutilized touchpoint in the revenue cycle process.
And for most organizations, this means requesting patient statement design “best practices” in an RFP or in a conversation with their current vendor. Then, statement design samples are reviewed by the organization and they choose which design(s) they like best.
While this can be a good starting point, only focusing on proclaimed “best practices” or simply copying what another healthcare organization is doing has its limitations.
It’s a matter of context. One organization’s “best practices” may or may not work for a given situation.
But there is a process that does always work. A process that, when done correctly, significantly impacts RCM performance – boosting cashflow, cutting AR days, reducing the cost to collect self-pay dollars.
In short, it’s an efficient and scalable approach to engaging patients in the billing process with targeted messages – leading to better business outcomes for your revenue cycle.
The 3 questions behind an effective statement design
Based on our experiences here at RevSpring, the most effective patient statement redesigns, and patient engagement strategies as a whole, start by answering these three questions.
Question #1: What do you know about your business and processes?
Start by asking, “What components of our revenue cycle and business office must we keep in mind during this process?”
This step is all about narrowing the focus of your patient engagement strategy. Really understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your current operations, so your communication design will fit the needs that are specific to your organization and billing environment.
You should account for things like:
- Limitations (staff or technological-related)
- Problem areas
The key here is to pay particular attention to the areas that cause –or have the potential to cause – friction or complexity for your patients during your current account resolution process.
Question #2: What do you know about your patient population?
After assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your current process, it’s time to outline what you know about the patients you serve.
You should account for things like:
- The top reasons patients call your business office
- Past payment behavior (How soon do most patients pay? First Notice? Second Notice?)
- Current self-service adoption rate (Example: Online bill pay or IVR payment)
This a great time to leverage analytic intelligence, if your organization is using predictive scores to segment patient accounts. Understanding a patient’s ability and likelihood to pay, combined with current behavioral metrics, allows for a more targeted (and effective) communication strategy.
Question #3: What do you want your patients to do?
Now, based on what you know about your processes and your patient population – what do you want your patients to do?
This final component is what ultimately guides the statement design process. It’s about creating a well-defined resolution funnel for the different scenarios your business office encounters.
Based on these scenarios, and the factors that keep patients from resolving their accounts, how do you leverage design and messaging to get patients to take the desired action?
Here are some of the common scenarios we see:
- For patients that can pay in full, how will you influence them to pay faster? Or pay using more cost-efficient self-service channels?
- For patients that can’t pay in full, how do you influence them to take action, and get enrolled in a payment plan?
- For patients that qualify for financial assistance or charity care, how do you influence them to complete the proper paper work and avoid being placed in Bad Debt?
How precise these scenarios get will depend greatly on the current technologies you have in place, the business problems you face, the print capabilities of your communication solution provider, etc.
What is important to point out however, is that this process creates an environment to where each scenario has one specific goal –making it much easier to track and monitor the effectiveness of your patient communication strategy.
Making it “pretty” is good, but it’s not enough
A visually appealing statement design has its merits.
Numerous research studies show that aesthetically attractive design has a major psychological influence on us humans. It builds trust, credibility, and is more likely to result in action being taken.
(This is called Cognitive Fluency. We’ll cover this and the persuasive powers of good design in another post.)
However, as this article outlines, there’s more to design than making something look pretty. Good design makes something functional, visually communicating importance to drive the optimal response. And you decide what is most important to communicate by going through the 3-step process outlined above.
The takeaway for RCM professionals
Life in healthcare revenue cycle isn’t getting any easier. So if you have the opportunity to redesign your patient statement, and develop a more complete patient engagement strategy, take advantage of it.
If you’re issuing an RFP, demand more from your potential partners.
The process in this article will help you get very specific about what your organization needs from a solution provider. A best-in-breed solution provider should be able to lead this process, and help you execute a custom patient engagement strategy that meets the business objectives you outline.
About the Author
Casey Williams 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.