When you read reviews on online review sites, you typically read about the physician. But have you ever read how awesome the billing experience was?
Working with the public takes skill and patience. It also requires being aware of how you are perceived. The question "How can I help you?" can convey a completely different meaning than "What can I do for you?" They may look very similar to you and in some cases might be construed as meaning the same thing. But they are very different in context.
If you answer the phone and ask a patient "What can I do for you?" you have just accepted responsibility for his request and verbally promised that action will be taken. His response could go something like this, "You can delete my bill! I'm not paying it!" Now you have a pending argument and an unhappy patient.
If you answer the phone and ask a patient "How can I help you?" you are telling the patient up front that you are there to helphim with his problem. His response will be different based upon the question asked. It could go something like "You can explain to me why I'm getting a bill!" A very different conversation from the former scenario.
There is a universal perception within the medical industry that every billing person or department is wrong, bad, the enemy, unintelligent, uninformed, etc. Patients often call about their bill and just start spewing anger and frustration due to lack of personal knowledge of their own insurance plans. Patients also call the office and (due to lack of training) the front office may start bashing the billing department right alongside the patient. No matter the reason, it's always "billing's fault."
Well, my intention is to change this perception. It will not be an easy task, but if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Small, simple verbiage changes are a place to start, as described above. If you've ever been in a billing department, you are aware that you will never please everyone, all of the time. Just accept that and move forward. There are always going to be unhappy people.
So, my thoughts are to start internally, with your current staff. Find the questions and phrases that work well for you, and start using them in your daily conversations. What will happen is the perception about the billing department will slowly change. Here are some phrases I've come up with:
• How can I help you?
• Did I answer your questions?
• Is there anything else I can help you with?
• Would you like me to follow up with you in a few days to see if you have any other questions on this topic?
• Is there any documentation you require?
Focus the questions or verbiage to show you are there to help patients, educate them, and support them.
My goal is to change the perception of the billing department internally so that staff members understand the scope of the billing department and can positively convey that to any patient who may have a question. Once you are confident this transition has happened in your practice, you can take it externally to the patient. Oftentimes patients are asked if they will fill out a satisfaction survey for medical services. But has anyone ever sent out a satisfaction survey about their billing services? I've never heard of one. People are most likely afraid to find out just how bad the perception might be -- they just push forward and hire more billing staff, rather than solving any issues that are milling about.
Do you have any suggestions that might steer this movement in a positive direction? Tell us what you think in the comment section below.