Dealing with medical bills is rarely easy for patients. But when patients have negative experiences with patient billing, their satisfaction with their provider can drop and hospitals may not see timely patients payments. In these situations, hospital executives may have few options to alleviate the issues. Yet, hospitals can set patients’ expectations about cost responsibilities up front for high patient satisfaction later on.

Cost estimations can alleviate common patient billing issues
According to Kansas City’s local Fox affiliate WDAF, Susan Lynch saw a physician about her chronic migraines, and after her consultation with the doctor and a drug screen, she happily walked away with a solution to her ongoing pain. However, her satisfaction was short-lived after she paid her bill for both the visit and the lab analysis because she was hit with another bill, this one from the health center for collecting the urine sample and sending it to the lab.

Her dissatisfaction could have been prevented right from the beginning with a cost estimation at the time of the service. Lynch told the news source she had no problem paying for the $360 doctor’s visit or the $371 lab, but she did not understand the $984 charge for the same urine sample. If Lynch would have known her urine sample had to be charged twice – once for handling, the second for analysis – she may not have been as unhappy with her care.

Hospitals should consider the benefits cost estimations provide patients. Even having a ballpark expectation before a service or procedure can help patients better prepare for when their bills arrive.

Cost estimations don’t have to deter patients
?LearnVest reported Karen Nielson of Greenwich, Conn., wasn’t prepared for a $24,000 medical bill after she underwent an appendectomy. After undergoing some tests to determine the cause of the abdominal pain she was experiencing, Nielson was rushed to the operating room to get her appendix out before it burst. She said she knew the procedure was going to be expensive, but she was unprepared for her high bill.

However, what would have happened if she was presented with a cost estimation as she was being transported to surgery? Nielson said she would have still undergone the surgery, but her shock and dissatisfaction would have been mitigated. Receiving a cost estimation would have been enough for her to have high satisfaction over her care.

Patient satisfaction isn’t driven by the billing experience alone. But adopting tools and processes to provide patients with cost estimates up front can have a sizable impact both on satisfaction and collections.