Availity Blog

3 Steps to Help Patient Access Staff Provide Better Answers to Difficult Questions


10.27.2016 by AVAILITY


Administrative personnel are on the front lines of a new era in healthcare, and it’s presenting challenges for hospitals and physician practices. With more patients enrolled in high-deductible health plans, front-desk employees are facing difficult questions from patients about their healthcare coverage, but many lack the skills and training necessary to answer them.

“Patients come in assuming they have insurance only to find out they are responsible for up to five thousand dollars before insurance kicks in,” said one practice manager. “Often, they are confused and frustrated, and if these conversations aren’t handled well, it can put a real strain on our relationships with our patients.”

Many hospitals and practices are moving these conversations away from the front desk, allowing dedicated staff to discuss financial and payment plan matters with patients in private. But there is still a need to help all employees better manage these conversations. Patient Access solutions can help address this in several important ways, here are three steps to improve patient satisfaction.

1. Facilitate conversation between front desk staff and patients

Talking to patients about their healthcare coverage and financial obligations isn’t easy, but front-desk employees need to feel comfortable addressing these issues when they come up. Many patient access solutions feature scripting tools that allow you to customize the dialogue your staff can use when talking to patients in different situations like handling an overdue balance or setting up a payment plan. Not only do these scripts guide employees on what to say, but they help streamline the registration process, preventing a backlog of patients checking in.

2. Support financial policies

Having a financial policy that spells out your organization’s payment terms and conditions is critical, but it’s just as important to make sure those policies are followed in day-to-day interactions. A patient access tool that lets you incorporate your organization’s unique policies, like payer coverage, benefits, payment terms and discounts, into the workflow helps ensure staff follows a consistent protocol. This is especially important for employees who work late or overnight shifts where there may be fewer resources to call on if they have questions.

3. Deliver accurate patient estimates

As patients pay more out of pocket, they want to know ahead of time how much their visit will cost. The manual process for generating estimates is time-consuming and may not deliver the level of accuracy you—and your patients—need. Patient access tools that create estimates based on actual payer contracts, rather than historical data, can deliver a level of accuracy you can depend on.

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