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Imagine you are a billing manager and it is 4:35 PM on a Friday, and you are on the phone with a patient who does not understand the medical billing statement they have received. The patient is concerned because there are three laboratory services she was charged for that were never conducted, there are two insurance companies listed on the bill, and she doesn’t know the difference among billed charges, insurance payments received, insurance adjustments applied, and individual payments received. You are both tired from working particularly long weeks and want this issue resolved as quickly as possible.
Medical billing patient phone calls can be a frustrating time drain, taking up to 40% of medical billers’ working hours. If you are part of an in-house billing team, this can feel overwhelming while you are trying to help the patient, but this certainly isn’t something you were trained for – even if almost half of your time is spent explaining to a patient why he or she has received a bill in the first place. Here are some tips to make sure you and the patient on the other line are working as effectively as possible to reach your desired outcome.
Remember the Name
A basic tenet of great phone customer service is to learn the patient’s name. Remembering the patient’s name seems simple enough, but the results can be dramatic. A gesture this basic generates a profound connection between the agent and the patient; it helps the patient feel that he or she has a personal advocate regardless of the outcome. When the patient is not personally addressed, the opposite occurs: patients can feel they are conversing with a nameless monolith, and this can add more anxiety to the stress of their medical expenses not being resolved. To further ensure a connection with the patient, consider providing him or her with your direct contact number or extension beyond the main number. The patient can then speak with someone already versed with the patient’s situation and background story.
Beyond simply saving time for the next call, this personal connection can empower the patient with respect to their general billing situation and indicate you are invested in the outcome as well. Taking detailed notes of each call will help you remember specific information for the next call, or give insight to anyone else who may have to take the case next. All these measures reinforce the idea that billing inquiries are often a multi-step process, and that the agent will be there until the end.
Walk in Their Shoes
While it’s hard enough for a billing agent to maintain composure with his or her own work stresses, a cardinal rule for the agent on the phone is never to lose patience or raise one’s voice with a patient. While medical billing statements may make perfect sense to an expert, they are usually completely unintelligible to the average person. An easy way to sympathize is to imagine seeing all this billing information for the first time, then add to that the stress of being ill or being actively treated.
Letting the patient know that you understand their frustrations will help form a stronger relationship and resolve the issues more quickly. Remember that the process of addressing a patient’s billing concerns can sometimes take weeks to months. The process can vary from reviewing insurance carrier policies to verifying procedural modification codes, thus making the interaction between the agent and patient as pleasant as possible will always help.
Nothing communicates how committed you are to a patient’s case than issuing regularly scheduled follow up calls, whether by the in-house medical billing agent or by an outside medical billing firm that handles claims for a medical practice. Following up isn’t merely a courtesy; remember that claims often require follow up information from the patient or detailed review of an insurance company’s policy obligations if a claim is being appealed.
Whatever happens, it’s most important to manage a patient’s expectations. Never make false promises about positive outcomes. Being realistic about what might happen to a submitted claim or appeal will always be doing right by them. In an industry where word of mouth or positive social media reviews can make or break a practice, this personal attention to detail can make all the difference.
The above are just three of the many tips for handling medical billing patient phone calls. Whether these calls are done by your in-house billing staff, or medical billing firms like Delphi Management Services who specialize in focused billing concerns like patient billing inquiries, mastering these tips can vastly improve your success in reaching a satisfying conclusion to your patients’ billing concerns.