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Asking for money? Enlist help of best staff
Two employees excelled both at cash collection and customer service at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI, says Cheryl L. Webster, director of patient registration services. Webster asked them to train her front-end staff.
"They pulled information from their own experiences, as well as other written training tools we have provided to staff on the topic," Webster says. "When they needed something developed, they worked with their supervisor to organize the materials."
The two individuals presented these materials to small groups of their colleagues, says Webster, and answered questions, shared tips, and offered their support. "We are expanding this approach in our refresher training in 2011, due to staff feedback," says Webster.
The staff trainers compiled a list of common patient objections and some responses that worked for them in the past, says Webster. "They focused on body language, compassion, and service," she adds. "Our focus is to be firm, but kind, when asking a patient for payment."
Webster says that staff should maintain "confident but not judgmental" body language. "We never want our patients to feel that the money is more important than their care," she says. "We work very hard to balance our service and revenue cycle responsibilities in every encounter with our patients."
The staff trainers offered these tips to their co-workers:
When asking for payment, do not ever ask if patients want to make a payment. Assume they will be paying by asking, "How will you make your payment today? We accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, personal checks, or cash."
If a patient indicates that he or she cannot pay the entire amount of a prior balance due, say, "We really need to have you make some sort of payment toward the balance. How much can you pay today?"
If patients indicate they cannot make any sort of payment, give them a financial counselor's phone number for follow up. "If the patient is uninsured, we have a packet of information on Medicaid and various assistance offices," says Webster.
"In 2010 we improved our overall cash collection by 25% using our updated training tools and processes," says Webster.
To help staff with collections, the department added a link to its billing system so that the patient's current balance is visible. "Not all balances are included," notes Webster. "We are working to add a little more detail to help staff answer questions."
When the questions get too detailed for staff to handle, they refer the patient to the hospital's billing office. "We try to balance the time our staff take in this process and not let it create back logs," says Webster.
Every day, supervisors receive a report on patients with outstanding balances, adds Webster, so they can audit that the staff requested and collected payments and noted the accounts.
"When they find that a staff member did not request payment because the account is not noted, they follow up with an education session to give our staff more help," says Webster.
Staff are given a list of patients coming in for a scheduled service in the future, says Webster. "We can flag the visits for a discussion regarding payment when the patient arrives, if they did not pay during the pre-registration phone call," she explains.
Supervisors celebrate successes every month, says Webster, by posting the team's cash collection as well as that of the "star" who collected the most.
a. times, patients will give feedback about a staff member who did not request payment in a compassionate manner, she notes. "When that happens, we work to help him or her request payment using a more positive, friendly approach," says Webster. "We monitor closely, so our staff do not cross over to a more aggressive method."
[For more information, contact:
Cheryl L. Webster, Director, Patient Registration Services, William Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak, MI. Phone: (248) 898-0860. Fax: (248) 898-3834. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.]