How do you motivate patients to pay their past due bills?
First, understand that there are different kinds of motivations, and people respond differently to them. For instance, someone watching their weight may be more motivated to ditch the doughnuts and embrace broccoli if they realize their lifespan is in jeopardy. That’s a negative consequence motivation. Others are motivated to pile broccoli on their plates if they know they’ll look better on the beach next summer. That’s a positive motivation.
So what kind of motivation gets patients to pay their outstanding bills? The answer: It depends on the patient.
Use Psychographic Segmentation
The first step in motivating patients to make their payments is figuring out what motivates them. And that’s the whole premise behind psychographic segmentation.
The study of psychographics has been around for several decades in the Consumer Products and Retail industries, but is an emerging field in healthcare that involves drilling down beneath the surface to consumers’ values, attitudes, personalities and lifestyles and understanding their unique motivations. Segmenting healthcare consumers by these characteristics allows you to target your communications more effectively and drive desired change — such as paying bills.
PatientBond’s patient engagement platform offers psychographic analyses of patients and, using the subject’s own input, creates an in-depth profile. That profile will provide a roadmap for what will motivate your patients to pay their medical debts and, equally important, how to most effectively contact them in today's cluttered communication landscape.
A recent PatientBond market research study found that one psychographic segment known as Self Achievers were the most likely to pay their bills and were the least price sensitive when it comes to healthcare products and services. The psychographic segment that was least likely to pay their bills -- Willful Endurers -- are also the most likely to visit an urgent care center frequently. In fact, Willful Endurers are up to seven times more likely than other psychographic segments to visit an urgent care center at least once every three months.
These two psychographic segments, were also statistically more likely than three other segments to prefer being notified by an urgent care center of a balance due by a home assistant, an online video call or instant messaging. If you were to motivate the other segments to pay their bill, it would make no sense to use those methods based on the nationally representative data.
Moreover, because each psychographic segment has unique motivations, the messaging used in engaging the segments needs to be different. This scenario is just one reason why psychographic segmentation can be a powerful tool to amplify engagement and encourage patients to pay their bills.
But what if you don’t have access to consumers’ psychographic information? PatientBond can help your healthcare organization with that, but here are some other methods for motivating patients to pay.
Offer Payment Plans
A consistent payment is better than no payment at all. If you farm something out to a collections agency, you run the risk of never seeing the money or the patient. But if you keep the account in-house, you stand a fighting chance of recouping something.
Technology is a savior here, too. With the latest financial software, you can automate the collections process in ways unthinkable even 10 years ago. To further amplify the effectiveness of automating the collections process, PatientBond's automated payment reminders are written with psychographic insights to motivate compliance and promote a prompt collection of outstanding patient payments.
If you’re getting nothing from a patient on an account, ask if your office can debit their bank account $15 a month. We realize that in breaking down the average PCP’s finances, $15 is a drop in the bucket, but again, something is better than nothing.
It may be appropriate in some cases, and with some procedures, to offer the patient a chance to pay up front in exchange for a small discount. Some patients appreciate the ability to just pay and be done with it. No one wants to be thinking about paying for their gallbladder surgery as they fight through a cloud of post-op grogginess. It gets the account off your books and a looming bill off the mind of your patient.
Invest in Staff Training
There are right ways and wrong ways to broach the delicate topic of payment. For instance, it may not be the best idea for an employee to discuss financial particulars as someone is going into heart surgery. Train your staff in transparency, compassion and creating a shared culture of respect. That alone will go a long way to ensuring your bills get paid.
Build Relationships with Patients
This is a step that begins before the patient even sits on your exam table for the first time. The reality is that people are less likely to stiff someone who’s like family. If the patient views their healthcare team as nameless or distant, it’s easier to walk away from an obligation. But if the patient views Veronica in the lab, Patrick the registered nurse or Shannon the receptionist as “family,” then it creates an inherent center of gravity for the patient to pull toward.
There are numerous ways to create this gravity. Start a quarterly newsletter that shares staff stories, send patients birthday cards signed by the staff or sponsor a Little League team. The more connections you build with patients on a personal level, the more likely it is that when a patient is parceling out their paycheck to pay bills, you’ll make the cut.
Even if a patient is chronically late in making payments, take the high road and keep the lines of communication open. If you remind them to come for that annual physical or blood pressure screening, you’ll be upholding your practice’s mission and you still stand the chance of collecting on their past due bill. If you shut the door, you run the risk of never getting paid. Instead, keep the door open by using the methods outlined above motivate patients to pay their bills and keep them coming back.