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Patient Support

If a patient calls your practice asking for directions to your office, the receptionist can provide them. If he has a concern about his medication, your nurse is almost always able to resolve it. If he shows up asking if his pesky cough is a symptom of strep throat, the doctor can give him an answer.

But what happens if that patient telephones to ask about the charges on his last statement? In many a practice, that call ends unresolved

Unacceptable – But All Too Common

Ask around to your friends and family – it’s highly likely that more than one of them can recount an unpleasant billing-issue experience of some sort: spending months getting an incorrect charge wiped from a bill; fighting inappropriate insurance denials to no avail; or being repeatedly promised a return call that never comes.

Allowing patients to get tied up in the red tape of your medical billing process is a surefire way to lessen (or even ruin) their overall perception of your practice. Even if they love the treatment they receive from your doctors, nurses and clerical staffers, patients who get the runaround when it comes to billing are certainly not likely to give you a positive review on HealthGrades or recommend your practice to a friend.

In a focus group conducted by HealthCPA, 81 percent of patients surveyed reported anger and frustration with medical bills and, according to the Association of Oncology Social Work, over 50 percent of cancer patients say that their medical bills have had a negative impact on their recovery.

The Root of the Problem

Billing issues can impact patient outcomes. Resolving them should be important to every employee at every practice – from the MDs to the front desk. Why is it so common for staffer after staffer to dodge those calls or attempt to pass them off to someone else?

Practices that outsource their medical billing operations are frequent offenders, since they may not have any billing experts around to understand patient charges.

However, even offices with in-house billing departments can be guilty of this oversight. If all of your staff members have been trained to take ownership of their work, they may not feel comfortable answering questions about a claim or statement processed by a coworker.

It also doesn’t help that, whether they cover your reception desk, handle patient scheduling or take care of coding, your administrative employees are usually busy taking care of their duties when they answer that patient-billing-issue call. Plus, they may not even have enough knowledge about medical billing to handle it.

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