Covid19 Has Changed the Medical Industry

Young doctor talking to patient on phone while working in modern clinic, high quality service concept

From small, family medical offices to multi-location practices, primary care providers have experienced upheaval since the pandemic. COVID-19 changed  how examining patients in person could result in coming into contact with contagious pathogens. As the pandemic escalated and the importance of social distancing and handwashing increased, physicians honed their telemedicine skills and began working remotely. The meaning of “seeing patients” seems to be permanently altered in several ways.

Staying Away 

Primary care is not rebounding to its pre-pandemic status. Patients are nervous about going into an atmosphere where they may encounter sick people, and elective procedures have been put on hold. More than one-third of physicians agree that the lack of patients is threatening the viability of their practice. Most small practices work on a fee-for-service model. With fewer procedures and more video visits, the payer reimbursement model has not yet caught up with the traditional in-person model.

Accelerating Telemedicine 

Telehealth has become more accepted in recent years as an increased number of people have reliable internet connectivity, and convenience became a priority. With COVID bounding onto the scene, telemedicine is a valuable alternative to in-person visits and has transformed the patient-doctor experience. During virtual visits, physicians can still engage with their patients and focus on their well-being while remaining safely distanced.

Conducting Virtual Tours 

Although elective procedures are on indefinite hold, patients with serious health issues often cannot wait until pandemic conditions subside. Virtual tours of medical facilities enable patients to view medical campuses and ask questions before scheduling surgery or any type of procedure. While nothing can take the place of an in-person visit, interactive virtual tours can offer peace of mind and allow patients the opportunity to ask questions at their leisure.

Practice Management Tips 

It’s not only retail locations and eateries that are at risk of closing due to the pandemic. The reduced number of in-person visits and elective procedures mean many practices struggle with revenue. More than 18 million people have lost work since February, leaving more Americans without their usual health insurance coverage. Households with limited resources and growing financial responsibilities may set aside healthcare in favor of making mortgage or car payments. For many providers, this means making changes in their medical practice management.

Discuss the Cost of Virtual Services Before the Appointment 

During the pandemic, many payers were able to take advantage of waivers for cost-sharing for virtual services. When those waivers expire, patients need to understand what has changed and why. Some patients may not understand why telehealth visits and in-person visits cost the same. Be prepared to explain that the services still require the healthcare provider’s time and expertise. This is why insurance companies consider them compensable.

Collect Insurance and Contact Information Before the Appointment 

When scheduling a patient’s appointment, verify contact information and current insurance. The patient portal or online appointment too should also allow for the update of existing information. This data also enables staff to keep in touch throughout the treatment and patient collections process.

Optimize Patient Portal Collection Strategies 

Friction can happen at any point during the payment process. This can complicate the provider’s ability to collect the amount due. Patients are often confused about what they owe for the services they receive after insurance. One way to reduce friction is to prepare them for the appointment’s cost before they arrive at the office.

Helping them understand what they owe and why provides pricing transparency, which often leads to improved patient satisfaction. Offering digital payments and other tools can allow them to stay involved in the revenue cycle and make the process smoother.

Offer Multiple Payment Options 

Small practices can’t rely solely on sending statements and hoping patients pay the bill to keep the doors open. Patient portals and practice management software that helps patients manage their medical billing and enable mobile payments are often liked and well received. However, if the practice caters predominantly to baby boomers, a personalized billing experience may serve the needs of the patient and the provider more effectively.

Obtaining consent to send text messages allows office staff to send a text with a link to a secured payment site can help patients feel more confident about making payments online. Texting appointment reminders and payment receipts also provide personalized interaction while still streamlining the back-office processes.

Set Up Payment Plans 

Medical practices often have patients who have seen the same doctors for years, sometimes decades. Many of these people may have financial difficulties that prevent them from making appointments because they know they cannot pay in full either at the time of the services or the end of the statement period. Offering payment plans with three or four monthly installments can help keep patient volume up and revenue coming in.

Medical billing collections will continue to change through the pandemic, but if met with streamlined software and management it will be just fine. Many changes were already occurring in healthcare due to technology and patent demand. COVID has caused the changes to happen faster, but streamlined telehealth systems that offer a pleasant experience and a way to keep in contact with your patients will be the way to go.

Call us today or get a quote to see how we can help streamline your medical practice billing and collections.

Parul Garg, CEO and co-founder of PracticeForces, has significantly contributed to the growth of over 1,000 U.S. medical practices through her expertise in medical billing and coding since the company’s inception in 2003. With a background in Computer Science and an MBA in Human Resources, her leadership and AAPC-certified coding skills have been pivotal in managing the company’s operations effectively.

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