While the healthcare industry has truly stepped up to the plate during the COVID-19 pandemic, it hasn’t been without difficulties. As the pandemic swept through the country, healthcare revenue fell by a staggering 48 percent, with hard-hit areas seeing revenue drops of nearly 80 percent. And while much of the country has resumed elective and standard care (with accommodations!), revenue has not yet rebounded to normal numbers. Experts warn that for many in the industry, revenue challenges will continue for some time. But there is good news! There are ways to win back that money you have lost. Numerous potential revenue streams are often unknown, ignored, simply missed by healthcare organizations of every size. It will take creativity and hard work, but as practices seek out and leverage hidden revenue opportunities, you can win back 2020.
Here are eight proven ways to access additional revenue.
Optimize recall programs
Obviously, getting patients seen by their doctor is key to revenue. Many healthcare organizations use recall to boost these numbers. They regularly send out reminders via text, phone, email, or even postcard encouraging patients to schedule appointments. And while any recall effort is better than none, there are ways to optimize your recall process to make it more cost effective. To do so make sure to:
- Put high profit-margin procedures as your top focus. Not every appointment is equal, financially speaking. In every industry, there are procedures that make a practice more money than others. For example, in the medical industry mammograms are considered to be one of these high profit-margin procedures. A practice may put in the same (or fewer) number of hours and/or resources when a patient schedules a mammogram compared to another procedure, but collect more money. These high profit-margin procedures should be your top focus when sending recall messages. Take time to sit down and make a list of the procedures that have a high profit margin for your particular specialty. Once that is complete, systematically send out recall messages to patients encouraging them to get seen. While these high profit-margin procedures will vary by specialty, here are a few to get you started:
- Teeth whitening
- Wisdom teeth removal
- Gastric bypass
- Cardiac catheterization
- Heart scans
- Spine surgery
- Osteoporosis screening
- Fertility treatment
- Outpatient surgeries
- Heart monitoring
- Reach out to those behind on care. Once you have set up reminders for your high profit-margin procedures, you should next focus on patients who have been diagnosed with conditions and have not followed up on those diagnoses. This may include dental patients who need a tooth pulled, vision patients who have expressed interest in a service, or medical patients who haven’t followed through on a recommended outpatient procedure.
- Send reminders for preventative care. Preventative care and health screening reminders should be the next priority for recall messaging. Do you have a patient over age 50 who needs a colon cancer screening? Or perhaps patients who are overdue for a teeth cleaning? A patient behind on their vaccines? Many preventative care procedures are covered by insurance and are a good way to boost low patient numbers.
- Finally, be creative! What procedures do you offer that fit well with patients working from home? For instance, some patients may prefer to get a minor surgery out of the way while they have the ability to recover and work from home. Or perhaps a procedure that results in a temporary unsightly appearance is a good one to advertise during a time when people are not seeing others as often. Brainstorm ideas that would work for your practice and then make suggestions to get these done now.
Take Advantage of Insurance
The second half of 2020 is already upon us. This is the time when many practices routinely encourage the use of insurance benefits. However, with the financial challenges brought about by this pandemic, helping patients take advantage of available insurance benefits is not just a fun idea, but a true necessity. There are a few ways to do this. The most effective methods will include some legwork (and a little education) by your staff. The truth is, studies show that most Americans don’t really understand their insurance. If you can do a little bit of background work for your patients, it will make this campaign much more effective.
- Find out which patients have met their deductible. At this point in the year, many patients may have met their deductible—but not even know it! Do some research into which of your patients has already covered their deductible, and then let them know and encourage them to come in. This plan can run in conjunction with the recall programs mentioned above.
- Discover which patients are eligible for specific insurance-covered preventative care/screenings. For example, some dental patients may have insurance that fully covers fluoride treatments, sealants, or other procedures. Reach out to these patients and encourage them to use it. As with the deductible, most patients are unlikely to know about many of the things their insurance plans covers. By simply letting them know about the benefit, you improve their patient experience and raise your own revenue. During this project, start by searching out which patients have unused benefits for those high profit-margin procedures you identified previously.
- Send general educational reminders about using end-of-year benefits. This should already be part of your regular process, but 2020 is a year where it is critical that this takes place. Remind patients of the need to use things like FSA money before the year runs out.
- Offer to investigate what treatments are covered by their insurance. Many practices have had good luck with sending messages to patients that say something like, “Your insurance covers more than you might think. Call us and we can look into what might be covered for you.” By combining this offer with other messaging about using end-of-year benefits, you can improve your returns even further.
Make payment a priority
Healthcare practices lose huge amounts of money every year due to missing payments. Fortunately, there are ways to ease these losses. And the best part is that many of these methods involve simple adjustments in the way an office approaches payment. To get started:
- Follow up on denied claims. Did you know that 60 percent of payer denials are never resubmitted? This is true even though most denials are due to things like incorrect patient info that can be easily corrected. Taking the time to resubmit a denial is worth the investment.
- Request payment the right way. Studies show that collection rates could be 25 percent higher if providers communicated with their patients on the channel they prefer. Typically, these are electronic payment methods such as via text message, email, or a portal. In fact, 68 percent of patients say they prefer paying through electronic means. In addition, using these tools speeds up the time between when you know the total amount due to sending a request for payment. This is critical since the longer it takes to collect, the less you are likely to collect.
- Alert patients to available payment methods. Many practices implement a new method of payment but fail to get the message out to patients. Be sure to inform patients of any payment options through group messaging, newsletters, and social media. You can even add a notice on your physical billing documentation.
- Determine the best time for your patients to submit a request. There are multiple touchpoints where practices should request payment. Train all of your staff on these touchpoints. These include:
- Before appointments begin in order to collect copays, initial coverage amounts, etc.
- Before patients leave the office after their appointment is complete
- After insurance payments have been processed and the patient's portion is due
- Prior to sending patients to collections
- Offer options to make payment easier. Millions of Americans are drowning in medical debt. By being understanding and accommodating, you increase the chance these patients will pay. Consider offering payment plans, keeping a credit card on file, or accepting outside payment vendors.
- Start a “collection day.” On a designated day each month, get staff together and focus on collecting past due amounts. You can have your staff spend the day calling all patients with overdue balances and offering discounts where allowed or setting up payment plans. Try to make it a like a party and offer rewards and incentives. For example, you may give the top collector an award and offer a team award as well for meeting specific benchmarks.
Uncover and alleviate patient fears
Recently, the CEOs of Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic wrote an op-ed in the New York Times sharing their concerns about the potential death toll among people who have delayed care for other conditions due to fears around COVID-19. They suggested it could be as high as the death toll from the pandemic.
Data from several studies certainly suggests that people are putting off both appointments and emergency care. The op-ed cited data including reported cancer diagnoses being down 45 percent and heart attacks being down 38 percent.
In order to improve health outcomes and increase practice revenue, healthcare providers need to start focusing on getting patients back in for the care they need—both urgent and preventive. This can only occur, however, if you are aware of the reasons patients might be hesitant to receive care. Once that is done, transparent and clear communication can help them understand what you are doing to keep them safe.
- Send targeted surveys to uncover patient concerns. Each practice and patient base is different. You need to find out WHY patients might not be coming in. The best way to do this is through a direct survey. Ask if there are financial concerns or safety concerns...or is it something completely different. Once you see what your patients’ objections are, make adjustments.
- Pay attention to your online reviews. No one likes a bad review, but you can often learn a lot from them. See if you have any specific trends being mentioned and address them. If you’re curious about some research into this topic, you can check out a guide our analysts put together on the top surprising words found in online reviews (and what you can learn from them) here.
- Use newsletters, text messages, social media, your website, and more to assure patients. Once you know why patients are not scheduling appointments, you must address those issues openly and honestly.
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