How is Inflation Affecting Patient A/R?
by Cindy Nyberg
With the increased popularity of high-deductible health plans, patients are assuming more financial responsibility than ever before. A few years ago, patient payments averaged about 17% of my practice revenue. Today, that number is much closer to 25%. As a practice manager, I often tell staff that the patients pay your paychecks” since patient payments comprise around 25% of gross revenue (Less patient refunds.) Co-pay amounts are increasing too, and they become more expensive as settings of care become more acute.
At the most fundamental level, A/R is most highly influenced by two things:
If you are a passive collector, there may be a nice fat opportunity to improve A/R performance with some well-orchestrated data analysis and take action on the findings. Does your organization send out three statements, followed up by a notice for collections? Do you have a lot of hard copy statements that are mailed by USPS that are returned or being delivered slowly? What are your digital open rates? How do they compare to your peers? Are they too low? You are just a bit too eager to write off unpaid bills? If any of these statements describe current processes, you may be a passive collector. Even if only one of these is apt to you, there are likely some opportunities to enhance and accelerate your A/R.
Accounts receivable is the lifeblood of healthcare organizations. You need to always be vigilantly monitoring A/R to ensure trends are picked up as soon as possible, allowing you the most advantageous position for responding. For example, is A/R trending downward? How does patient A/R compare with insurance A/R? What percentage of A/R is comprised by write-offs? Which component of A/R needs to be prioritized? What comes in second? And what are you going to do about it?
To status the health of your A/R and understand how important trends are progressing, you need fresh, readily available data. One-off and cobbled together Excel spreadsheets or custom reports gathered from a large EHR make it infinitely harder to spot opportunities as they begin to occur. These “home grown” and behemoth solutions may only give partial understanding. Because AI cannot be applied to spreadsheets to identify emerging patterns, you may not discover new trends for some time – putting you in reactive mode after A/R has already been affected.