Negotiate Bills: Up Patient Satisfaction, Lower Med Mal Risk

Doctor's ToolsPhysicians have always had to deal with patients who have difficulties paying their bills. But with the country’s recent economic strain, patients are having a harder time than ever paying their bills and many are asking to negotiate their bills and what they owe. A good medical practice has a formal policy in place to help patients handle their bills and outline their options. And, we’ll discuss how having a good policy (and its execution) can increase patient satisfaction and lower your med mal risk.

A recent article outlines some excellent items to consider when drafting your practice’s plan for how to handle patients who want to negotiate their bills. The author advises not handling it on a case-by-case basis –which can be enticing since it doesn’t require any forethought. But not having a thoughtful plan in place can hurt your practice. If patients don’t feel like they are being heard or treated fairly, this may open the physician up to med mal risk. Remember, dissatisfied patients are more likely to sue for med mal and if you can increase patient satisfaction you can lower your med mal risk.

Some things to consider for a good bill negotiation policy:
1. Will you consider bill negotiation for patients with insurance or just for those without it?
2. Will you consider a payment plan as an alternative to lowering a bill?
3. Who will determine if the person is eligible for a reduced bill?
4. How will you determine if the person qualifies for a reduction? What will you base it on? (Income? Circumstance?)
5. How will these policies be communicated to patients and staff?

Also, make sure that you don’t violate any government regulations or third-party payer contracts in the process. See the full article for a more detailed discussion of this topic.

Having a plan in place and knowing how you want to handle patient requests for bill negotiation ahead of time can ensure that your practice runs smoothly and that you feel comfortable with how your practice’s finances are being handled. And, as an added bonus, it will increase patient satisfaction and lower your med mal risk. Finally, if you’d like to take patient satisfaction one step further, you might like to utilize our free patient satisfaction survey system.

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