Patient Satisfaction In Patient Accounting
Some communities only have one hospital; some have many. Regardless, every one of them at
some time has to address the issue of patient satisfaction. Whereas the rest of a facility
has to deal more with patient care than their customer service issues, when it comes to patient
accounting the entire thing has to do with customer service. Not only that, but how patient
accounting serves the public seems to carry more weight and last longer. That’s because a
patient may only see a technician once, but there’s a possibility that a patient could receive
multiple bills, or letters from insurance companies, or even phone calls from patient accounting.
Let's talk about how employees can improve patient satisfaction. Obviously all hospital
employees are also customer service personnel at the same time. Some are up front, some are
on the back end, but most are right on the front lines all day long.
There are three critical criteria that all employees must be cognizant of. The first is
courtesy; employees must learn to be courteous in all interactions with every single person
they encounter, including each other. It doesn't do any good if they're nice to the patients,
yet in front of the patients are critical of others.
The second is observation; not the department, but in action. Employees must be even more
vigilant in noticing how people are reacting to the situations at hand, and have to sometimes
take into account their own feelings. What happens is you, as the employee, might be
uncomfortable with something, but you overlook it because you say you're too busy, or you're
taking care of someone else, and don't have time. But if you, as the employee, are
uncomfortable, it's possible your patients are uncomfortable also.
Third, there has to be education. Everyone needs to always be constantly educated on not
only their specific jobs and duties, not only on hospital policy, not only on learning how
to be courteous and observant and whatever else, but on how to communicate with patients.
It's easy to teach someone how to talk to patients; it's much harder to teach someone how to
"communicate" with them; how to break down exactly what something means; how to take the time
to make sure they understand; and how to listen to their concerns and actually hear what
they're saying, which isn't always the same as the words they're using.
With all of this, of course, no person can do it by themselves, so it helps to have people
talking, in teams or in meetings, and sharing their views. One thing folks discover is that
they're not alone with some of their thoughts, and often that's all it takes to help employees
help themselves and others.
Concentrating more on patient accounting, there are issues that are more specific to the
department. One thing that should be looked as is how much your facility is able to help
patients with their insurance issues, beyond the normal phone calls asking if insurance
has paid. Large hospitals may have personnel that can handle helping patients with their
insurances; smaller hospitals don't have the same opportunities. When I was at a large
facility years ago we had 2 people trained to do just that type of thing. They had business
cards, and were listed in the newspaper and on TV as being people who could help patients
with their insurance questions. A problem with that, is that often the people calling on
the phone weren't patients of our hospital, and were expected to help out with physicians
bills as well. It was a valuable service, but in the end the facility wasn't willing to
give all the resources needed to make the service truly user friendly.
At another smaller facility, I was only allowed so many people to do the specific duties
of billing and follow up, and only a specific number of employees for registration or
other departments. Though I made sure my staff was well trained in their jobs, I didn't
have the luxury of having someone who could be there to answer patients questions about
their insurance or help them with some of the nuances of their HMOs. I would have loved
having the opportunity and flexibility, but as budget cuts kept coming and I had to keep
evaluating staff, I found that I had even less of an opportunity than I initially did to
train someone for that purpose.
Another thing to keep up with is making sure that no matter who a patient or guarantor
talks to, they’re always going to get the same information. This means two things.
One, educate, educate, educate. We all hate when we contact an insurance company and
they say one thing, then we call, get someone else and get a totally different answer.
Patients hate that with us. So every single person who answers the phone needs to be
trained to give the same responses as much as possible, no matter what department they
Two, take notes, and if you need shortcuts to get it all make sure everyone knows the
shortcuts. How frustrating is it when you have to call someone a second time and the
new person has no idea what has already been discussed because either they don’t
understand the notes, or notes weren’t taken to begin with? The same within the business
office; every facility I’ve ever been in has the capability of taking notes, but the
staff is usually taught speed rather than efficiency and courtesy. If we’re all about
the patients, that needs to reverse somewhat.
The final piece is an easy one; treat each other with courtesy while at work.
When patients see employees arguing, they feel uncomfortable. A patient can also
tell over the phone if the person they’re talking to is in a bad mood. Bad moods
are transferable; they’ll bring the demeanor of an entire office down, and they can
bring down the mood of someone on the phone. Everyone has a bad moment every once
in awhile; that’s to be expected. If you can help to keep the mood for all departments
you’re in charge of in a calm state, you’ll help increase patient satisfaction through
osmosis; isn’t that a wonderful thing?