Patient billing is a complex process. From estimating what patients owe to encouraging them to pay their bills in a timely manner, the patient billing process seems anything but simple. In an article for Healthcare Finance News, health care operations writer Rodney Moore wrote the medical billing process can even confound physicians and hospital administrators.

You should not have to have a degree in finance to successfully decipher medical bills. Patient friendly billing makes it easy for patients to pay their providers because payment statements only contain necessary information, the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) notes. Many hospitals are still unsure whether they should jump on board with the latest in patient billing because they are holding onto their traditional statements and patient compensation procedures. However, as the health care industry continues to evolve, hospitals need to find ways to simplify the patient billing process or risk receiving even fewer patient payments. When it comes to staying competitive in health care, hospitals need to think about how to make the patient experience more positive – and they can start with the billing process.

Understand the root of patient dissatisfaction
Patient expectations have been changing for years. As more patients have accepted additional personal responsibility of their medical payments, many have also increased their expectations about health care quality and service. If hospitals also consider the Affordable Care Act’s focus on accountable care and meaningful use’s commitment to encouraging patient involvement in their care management, the importance of patients’ satisfaction with their providers becomes even clearer. Too often, however, hospitals fail to create a great patient experience because their billing is too complex and confusing, according to Healthcare Finance News.

“As patients become responsible for a larger portion of their hospital bills, it becomes increasingly important that they understand their expected out-of-pocket costs and resolve how they will handle their medical bills before they incur the costs of services,” Richard Gundling, vice president of health care financial practices at HFMA, told Healthcare Finance News.

Patients want to pay off their medical expenses. A study published in a 2011 edition of McKinsey Quarterly cited by Healthcare Finance News found 74 percent of insured Americans want to or can pay their health care bills out of pocket up to $1,000 a year. If this number seems high it is because not all of these patients end up paying off their health care expenses. Often, patients don’t pay their medical bills because they are confused with how much they truly owe or do not know what payment options are available. According to Healthcare Finance News, patient confusion is a key factor in why hospitals only receive a low number of patient payments.

“I think we have an obligation and people know that they do have out of pocket expenses relative to their healthcare services, but how can we make that as easy as possible on patients?” Richard Nagengast, director of patient accounting at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, told Healthcare Finance News.

As consumers, patients require clear statements and the ability to quickly and easily pay their providers for services. Patient billing doesn’t have to be a complicated process anymore. For hospitals, making a commitment to patient friendly billing means increasing the likelihood that they will be successful in consumer driven health care.

Healthcare Finance News puts it best: “Effectively engaging patients and boosting collections can be as straightforward as re-evaluating traditional payment processes and embracing a simple, yet proven strategy: thinking more like a consumer.”