Patient Financial Discussions and HFMA's Best Practices

November 28, 2013

Some tips on having patient finance discussions at your medical practice.

At the end of October, the Healthcare Financial Management Association released its "best practices" in relation to patient-finance discussions.

An impressive team of industry representatives, as well as an advisory panel, which includes former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn) and former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), compiled the process and the end product. Some of the key takeaways are:

1. In the ED, no patient financial discussions should occur before the patient is screened and stabilized. (See EMTALA).

2. Financial discussions should occur before an obligation is incurred.

3. The individuals participating in the discussions depend on a multitude of factors.

4. A variety of topics including the provision of care, prior balances, and financial counseling should all be addressed.

In short, whenever the term "best practices" emerges, it can translate into the "standard of care" or "industry standard" in law. In turn, if there is a significant deviation, liability may attach. Therefore, it is worthwhile for physicians and other healthcare providers to familiarize themselves with these practices.