Patient Cost Transparency and Why it is Important
Information is everywhere. Go to the internet and you can get just about any question answered. But patients who request an estimate of their bill from a doctor are usually out of luck. Few physician offices are capable of generating this information on demand to let their patients know how much they should expect to pay following a visit.
Many patients want to know: How much am I going to have to pay?
Expecting the Unexpected
Patients want this information for a good reason: 45 percent of Americans say they “would have difficulty paying a surprise medical bill of $500,” according to a report from The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Physician offices with the ability to provide an upfront cost estimate to a patient can help eliminate an unexpected bill, which will likely cause problems for the patient and, ultimately, the practice. Physicians spend years developing relationships with patients and a surprise bill can destroy that connection in a moment.
As patients take on more financial responsibility by increasing their share of medical costs through high-deductible health plans and ever-increasing premiums, they’re forced to shop for the best medical treatment at the lowest price.
Getting an accurate cost estimate to the patient before they leave is critical because it can mean the difference between quick payment or no payment at all. Only 48 percent of insured adults 18-64 years old pay their bill in full at the time of service, the Kaiser report states.
By the Numbers
Treatment cost estimates must be highly accurate and based on the patient’s specific benefits plan. Ideally, this estimate would be generated in anticipation of the patient’s visit or at the time of service. But getting the numbers right is only half the solution. It’s important to deliver the information in an easy-to-understand format with clear, line-item explanations.
Providing an estimate of a patient’s bill is good customer service, and helps ensure faster and more complete payment.