Are you in control?
Do you feel that:
a) The providers set the rates. I just have to adjust my practice as they adjust the pricing.
b) My focus is patient care. My staff can deal with the billing.
c) I already spend way too much time dealing with changing reimbursement schedules. I did not go into medicine for this!
Depending on when I ask, almost every private practice owner I meet feels all of the above at times, and often verbalizes those feelings much more colorfully..and vehemently…than I have here.
Although just about everything has changed over the last several years, the “how much” and “who pays” parts of this third P have arguably had the most dramatic impact on private practices. As a healthcare consumer you certainly understand that your patients are just as unsure about making wise choices as you are. While this can create anxiety, it also creates opportunity for practices willing to include financial literacy as part of the patient education they provide.
I contend that practices who think of “price” strictly in terms of reimbursement schedules will have a harder time than ever staying afloat in the coming years. Perceived value of the care received is critical in patients’ decision making. As we discussed in the “product” blog, this is not just about you and the care you provide. It’s also hugely affected by the experience your front and back office team provides to your patients. They need to be thoroughly familiar with all of the most current plans your patients access, and be able to explain it in an understandable and compassionate way. Billing errors, or unanswered billing questions, are more likely to give you a bad rap than almost anything else. Dig in and research your own practice. If claims are being denied, or patients aren’t paying their share promptly, then find out why and make sure it’s fixed.
If you haven’t already, explore offering cash services, ancillary product and other ways to lower your dependence on anticipated lowered reimbursement rates. Offer payment plan options to make your services more affordable to patients. And most importantly, be the provider that helps them understand their options and benefits, including health savings accounts. Not just for the care they receive from you, but for the good of their fiscal and physical health overall.
Healthcare is not a commodity, and people generally still don’t shop for it as if it is. But increasingly patients have both the tools and the motivation to understand what they are paying for. Patients who feel valued as a person, well-cared for by everyone at your practice and see progress in reaching their goals are likely to be satisfied with the value received for their money.