How hospitals can financially assist patients and increase revenue
Although health insurance has become more affordable in recent years, a large majority of hospital patients still have trouble paying their medical bills.
As a result, a number of hospitals across the country are finding new ways to financially assist low-income patients.
Here are just a few ways hospitals are treating patients who can't afford their medical bills:
Hospital payment plans
There are an alarming number of unpaid medical bills affecting hospitals across the country. In fact, according to the American Hospital Association, there are roughly $40 billion in unpaid medical bills in the U.S. each year. In order to decrease this dollar amount, hospitals nationwide are now offering payment plans.
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Hospitals and health systems such as Mount Sinai, St. Luke's, and Nemours all offer payment plans that allow patients to pay their bills in small installments.
Likewise, a growing number of hospitals are offering interest-free payment plans to make paying larger bills more feasible for low-income patients.
Charity care programs
Non-profit medical facilities and larger, more established hospitals offer charity care programs to eligible patients in need. These charity care programs are based on income and the amount of the medical bill itself.
Most charity care programs help reduce the overall cost of medical procedures, but very few cover the entire balance.
In-house financial advisors
Because of the increase in unpaid medical bills, hospitals are now hiring in-house financial advisors to help low-income patients find payment solutions for their bills. This includes helping patients apply for Medicaid, state and federal assistance, and hospital-based financial hardship programs.
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The article “Retirement Planning: 3 Ways to Calm Your Terror Over Health Care Costs” recommends that all low-income patients including retirees seek help from financial advisors for their medical bills.
With the assistance of financial advisors, low-income patients are finding more affordable ways to cover their medical costs.
Medical bill advocacy
Hospitals are doing all they can to help low-income patients cover the cost of their medical bills.
However, it's sometimes not possible to find an in-house payment solution. In cases such as this, hospitals are recommending that patients turn to medical bill advocates. These advocates are usually part of a medical billing advocacy group and help patients in need negotiate lower payments.
By reaching out to health networks, insurance companies, and PPOs, medical bill advocates work on the behalf of the patient to lower overall bill amounts.
Hospitals that can provide financial assistance to patients in need are also recommending they file a grievance with their health care provider. Whether it's due to financial hardship or other factors, filing a grievance can help slow the payment process until such funds are in place for the patient.
Paying a little is better than paying nothing at all, which is why many medical grievances allow patients to pay what they can upfront and from month to month. This is beneficial for insurance companies, hospitals and patients alike.
It's plain to see that hospitals are going the extra mile to financially assist patients in need.
About the author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including health care and finances.
Women leading in healthcare means better patient outcomes
I know I’m pointing out the obvious, but women are different to men. In the context of healthcare—a woman’s physiology, symptoms and sometimes even treatment options are different from a man's. We have witnessed this in cardiovascular health, where there is ample research and evidence that women’s symptoms are often different to men’s. We also know that heart disease is responsible for 1 in 3 deaths in women annually—it is the number one killer.
The fact is women do not always get the treatment they need. A lot of that has to do with who is treating them, how they are being treated by their physicians and the healthcare systems that are designed to support patient needs.
The proof is in the research at the care level; a 2017 study of hospitalised patients over the age of 65, examined differences in outcomes based on the gender of the treating physician. The results of the study concluded that patients treated by female physicians had lower mortality and readmission rates compared with those cared for by male physicians.
Gender equity starts at the top
I believe that gender equity in healthcare starts at the top with the leaders who set expectations around workplace culture, and that trickles down to the workforce.
You might think gender has nothing to do with how patients are treated—a patient is a patient, regardless of age, ethnicity, religion, creed, color or gender. But I believe there is a correlation between female leadership in healthcare and better patient outcomes—for men and women. Despite a predominantly female workforce in healthcare (65% of healthcare workers are women), only 13% of healthcare CEOs are women.
The disparity in the number of women in the healthcare C-suite is irrefutable, but I believe the more diversity we have at the boardroom table in hospitals and health systems— and that includes women—the more perspectives we bring to the decisions that ultimately impact patients and their families.
Female healthcare leaders are also caregivers
Many women are still the primary caregivers at home. The responsibility of grocery shopping and meal planning, making doctor and dentist appointments for children and elderly parents, and everything in between still tends to fall to women.
This lived experience gives women the ability to think about innovations and solutions from the perspective of the caregiver—not just the patient. The fact is when someone is sick in the family, it affects the whole family.
As a woman, I often think about solutions and technologies that facilitate holistic healing and health that support the whole family. Bringing the mentality of inclusion to healthcare leadership means programs like the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, will ensure research and treatment for cardiovascular disease in women will get the attention it deserves and ultimately, better outcomes for patients.
The bottom line and meaningful work are equally important
A 2019 study found that public companies with a female CEO were more profitable than their competitors with men at the helm, but that didn’t come at the cost of job fulfillment.
Women who lead companies and organisations can influence their workforce by rallying around a common cause. Having meaningful work and the opportunity to make a difference in the world is powerful motivation that doesn’t have to come at the cost of profitability.
The work we do at Abbott is a good example—I consistently reinforce the good that comes from the research and development of the products we make with my team. Clinical trials, like the current LIFE-BTK trial, is consciously recruiting female principal investigators who work with underserved populations to enroll patients from communities of color and women. Knowing the work we do has a social impact on society might be difficult to quantify, but in my opinion, it’s priceless and could lead to meaningful treatment options that improve patient outcomes in the long-term.
Emotional intelligence and empathy are not soft skills
Interpersonal skills, problem-solving and self-awareness are considered “soft skills”—skills that might not be required to do the job, but in leadership positions, they are no longer “nice to haves,” they are “need to haves” if you are going to inspire high-performing teams.
Research suggests women tend to score higher on social and emotional competencies than men. In the words of Joanne Conroy, the CEO and President of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health in New Hampshire, “Diverse representation at the table changes the conversation. It becomes more collaborative; there is more listening and less interrupting. We have better conversations about how we are functioning as a team and we create a safe space when people can be honest with their feedback to all members of the team, including the leader.”
I’m not suggesting women have a monopoly on soft skills, however having gender diversity around the boardroom table means a diversity of skills. Being aware of your team’s morale and what motivates them is equally important as managing your supply chain.
When it comes to health, we know that patients want more personalised care. The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to generate data that is tailored to the health needs of women and ultimately lead to better treatment options and outcomes. But the data insights generated by AI are only as good as the patients’ data available for analysis. To maximize the potential of AI—and meet the expectation of personalised care for patients—healthcare leaders need to be aware of who is and isn’t being included in studies and clinical trials, like women, and telegraph the need for greater inclusion to their teams.
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. Sure, we have come a long way since Elizabeth Blackwell—the first female physician in the United States—founded New York Presbyterian Hospital. Sure, there is still plenty of work to do, but I do hope my contribution is paving the way for more women to take on leadership roles in healthcare and make a positive impact on lives of all patients and their families.