In an age of growing health care insurance deductibles and numerous out-of-pocket expenses, people are increasingly concerned about their medical bills. Patients turn to their physicians to answer financial questions and address billing concerns. Below are some tips to help medical professionals discuss these concerns with their patients.
Be the First to Bring It Up
Most patients are embarrassed or anxious about discussing medical costs and the related financial strains with their doctor. This is why medical professionals should be knowledgeable on the topic and bring it up first. Over 50 percent of patients have concerns about medical costs, but the majority of them don’t mention it during their visit. According to Carenet Health, having financial concerns is a common reason for patients to be noncompliant with medical care and health screenings. For that reason, it’s important to address these concerns first. Another reason for this lack of discussion is the fact that most visits are approximately 15 minutes in duration, and patients have other concerns. Times have changed, and physicians should now ask their patients about cost concerns during every visit.
Be Factual, Not Emotional
It is important for health care professionals to be up front with the cost of care. This will require giving patients the facts as they are without an emotional attachment. There is a misconception by many patients that physicians and medical facilities are the sources of the rising costs. You have to explain to patients what the costs are and that there are many factors that are out of your control. Patients have to understand that, for the moment, you can’t do anything to change these rising costs. As Crown Buyers explains, “The best way to discuss finances with patients is in a matter-of-fact tone. Don’t put any emotion into it, don’t mince words, and certainly don’t make promises that you cannot fulfill. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell the patient you don’t know and recommend they find out from another source. Be concise and to the point and discuss only the matter at hand.”
Train Staff to Discuss Finances and Make Referrals
While some patients will prefer to discuss financial matters concerning health care with other administrators, many will seek advice from medical professionals. As medical providers, your staff needs to know what to be transparent about patient billing. FierceHealthcare further explains that doctors have an ethical and legal obligation to inform patients about the cost of care. As such, your medical staff should be trained and prepared to answer questions about medical costs from your patients. If they are unfamiliar with a topic, they should refer the patients to others who can help them.
Explain Health Care Cost Terms
One of the big challenges in explaining health care costs to patients is being able to explain the difference in terms like cost, reimbursement, and charge. These terms have certain meanings in the medical field but can be interpreted differently by patients. To patients, costs simply mean what they pay out-of-pocket, but to a health care provider, it means the total price to deliver a service. It is important for patients to fully understand what these terms mean before continuing with other costs conversations.
Today, health care costs continue to skyrocket, and many patients are looking for answers from their doctors. It is important for doctors to give their patients the facts as they are and offer any advice they can.
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