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.
NHS trials test that predicts sepsis 3 days in advance
A new test that can predict sepsis before the patient develops symptoms is being trialled at a National Health Service (NHS) hospital in the south of England.
Clinicians at Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital are leading medical trials of the blood test, which they hope will help them save thousands of lives a year.
The test is being developed by government spin-out company Presymptom Health, but the research began over 10 years ago at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). This included a study of 4,385 patients and more than 70,000 samples, the largest study of its kind at the time.
From the samples taken, a clinical biobank and database were generated and then mined using machine learning to identify biomarker signatures that could predict the onset of sepsis. The researchers found they were able to provide an early warning of sepsis up to three days ahead of illness with an accuracy of up to 90%.
Unlike most other tests, Presymptom Health identifies the patient’s response to the disease as opposed to detecting the pathogen. This is an important differentiator, as sepsis occurs as a result of the patient's immune system’s overreaction to an infection or injury, which can then cause life-threatening organ dysfunction.
Worldwide, an estimated 49 million people a year contract sepsis, while in the UK almost two million patients admitted to hospital each year are thought to be at risk of developing the condition. If Presymptom's test is effective, it could save billions of pounds globally and improve clinical outcomes for millions of sepsis patients.
The initial trials at Queen Alexandra Hospital will last 12 months, with two other sites planned to go live this summer. Up to 600 patients admitted to hospital with respiratory tract infections will be given the option to participate in the trial. The data collected will be independently assessed and used to refine and validate the test, which could be available for broader NHS use within two years.
If successful, this test could also identify sepsis arising from other infections before symptoms appear, which could potentially include future waves of COVID-19 and other pandemics.
Dr Roman Lukaszewski, the lead Dstl scientist behind the innovation, said: “It is incredible to see this test, which we had originally begun to develop to help service personnel survive injury and infection on the front line, is now being used for the wider UK population, including those fighting COVID-19.”