Encourage patient participation in health IT to improve self-pay collections

Many hospitals are focused on achieving Stage 2 meaningful use to become eligible for incentive payments, yet reaching meaningful use objectives can have other benefits, like the chance to improve patient collections. When hospitals concentrate on engaging their patients through patient portals or email communication, health systems may begin to see higher patient engagement and more online payments from patients. Online portals can improve a hospital’s revenue cycle metrics by reducing the cost associated with traditional patient billing and reminding patients in an efficient manner to pay for medical services. It’s no secret that adopting technology can cut down on billing delivery and staff costs, thus, many hospitals have already gotten on board with this way of thinking. However, successfully linking of meaningful use strategies with increasing patient payments can often be easier said than done.

Optimize the hospital’s strategy to achieve meaningful use
Health systems aren’t going to be able to receive all of the benefits of increased patient engagement and payments without concentrating on meaningful use itself. According to Healthcare Payer News, a hospital needs to ensure all aspects of its health IT systems and patient communications are secure for patient information privacy and are compliant with federal legislation and regulations. For hospitals to do this, however, they need to ensure all staff members follow the proper policies and procedures regarding the security of personal health information (PHI).

Meaningful use tends to be a complex subject for hospitals, as one approach to optimizing EHR use may work for one unit but not another. It often takes hospitals a long time to achieve their meaningful use objectives, so it is important that hospitals use only the most efficient strategies to encourage patient participation in online portals and self payments.

Create patient engagement
Dr. Shafig Rab, vice president and chief information officer at a New Jersey medical center, told Becker’s Hospital Review that patients often have few rewards for being engaged in their own health, making it difficult for hospitals to achieve meaningful use let alone encourage patients to pay their medical bills in a timely manner. While hospitals and payers have been incentivized to adopt EHRs, many patients may not see the value in reviewing their own health information, booking appointments online or paying their medical bills through patient portals.

Yet, Stage 2 meaningful use is dependent on patients’ involvement in care, and in addition hospitals need to boost patient payments to maintain their bottom lines. To tackle both of these issues, health systems need to inform patients about why they should log in to their patient portals and encourage them to utilize easy, online self-service payment options. Most hospital executives have heard about the countless benefits that come from embracing EHRs and health IT, so health care administrators already have the knowledge they need to motivate patients to use available technical systems. Hospitals need to utilize patient-provider relationships, the hospital’s customer service representatives and marketing materials to educate patients about why using patient portals and paying medical bills online are smart moves for their health.

By asking all providers to inform patients about why using their patient portals is easy, efficient and puts them in control of their own care, hospital executives can take the difficulty out of encouraging patients to use their own patient portals and instead get patients to feel like doing so is to their own benefit. From being able to have a patient’s medical history at the tap of a finger to being able to send a prescription to a pharmacy instantly, health IT systems streamline the health care experience for patients while also optimizing hospital workflows and improving health system efficiency.

However, through all of this, hospitals need to keep in mind certain regulations, such as the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), to avoid putting patient information at risk. Yet if hospitals are able to ensure their data security remains strong, they may be able to see significant gains due to more patients embracing online payments. Not only will the hospital be able to achieve meaningful use, but it will see higher patient satisfaction and increased revenue from not having to bill patients through the mail. For hospital administrators to see all of these improvements, it may be time for them to focus on becoming patient-centric in all aspects, including meaningful use.