Discussing Financial Terms with Your Patients

Discussing financial details is no one’s idea of an enjoyable experience, but it’s often necessary. It’s something people should discuss before moving in together, or getting married, and it’s certainly something medical professionals should discuss with their patients. Financial terms are vast and often confusing when it comes to medical treatments, work, and co-pays. Insurance is different in every state, on every policy, and for each person. There’s no way to predict what it might cost someone to undergo any type of treatment without first checking their insurance. Even then, it’s difficult to pinpoint specifics due to future discovery of additional problems.

Before any medical professional offers a service, performs a service, or recommends something specific in the office, you must discuss the financial terms of each service. Patients have a right to know what it might cost them to pay for a procedure whether it’s required or not. It’s not easy to discuss finances, but these tips should help make it a little less painful.

Write it Down
One way to discuss financial terms with patients is to have it already written down. You can write down the cost of every procedure imaginable, but you can write down the cost of the most common procedures and provide that to patients. They can then take that paperwork home and check with their insurance on their own.

Be Upfront and Factual
The best way to discuss finances with patients is in a matter-of-fact tone. Don’t put any emotion into it, don’t mince words, and certainly don’t make promises you cannot fulfill. Just say what you need to say and move on. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell the patient you don’t know and recommend they find out from another source. Be concise and to the point and discuss only the matter at hand.

Don’t Judge
One of the biggest reasons people avoid going to the doctor is the cost. Even with insurance, some procedures, medications, and care are so unaffordable they can’t justify the cost. When doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals make their patients feel judged about not going to the doctor, about not following up, or about not taking their medication, it puts them on the defensive. Form questions in a way that’s not judgmental so much as it’s concerned. Ask people what is stopping them from seeing the doctor, rather than why they haven’t been in so long. When people feel they’re being judged, they’re less likely to open up.

Offer Payment Plans
Some people cannot afford to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for treatment. Some offices now offer a chance for their patients to apply for a credit card, specifically for medical purposes, so they can afford to pay their medical bills. Offer this and provide your patients with a copy of the application paperwork so they can see their options and make an informed decision.

Talk Money First
Before you begin recommending anything or performing any treatments or tests on a patient, talk about the cost. Make sure they know how much it will cost them to do this, whether it’s required or only recommended, and be sure they are comfortable with what you’re asking them to do. Money first is a good statement to remember. When you talk to patients about the cost of their treatment prior to starting it, they’re more comfortable in your office.

It’s never easy to discuss financial terms with people, but it’s required. Post a sign in the lobby and on your website clearly stating which forms of insurance you accept, how much it costs for someone to walk in and pay cash, and any financing plans you offer. When patients know ahead of time what to expect, they’re more comfortable with the work you are doing.

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