When it comes to settling medical bills after a hospital stay or procedure or even a consultation, the patient is usually in a hurry to get home, and rightly so. Who wants to spend extra time lingering around at an infirmary? However, in this hurry, people ignore the fact that billing is a cumbersome process and one mistake can be heavy on their pockets.
A medical bill involves everything from the time the patient is prepared for consultation or hospital admission till the time the patient is discharged to go home. It involves various elements like consultation fees, stay, doctors charges, tests, procedures, medicines, insurance claim settlements, and so on, and is a detailed and time-consuming process.
As doctors, you must keep these 5 points in mind while billing your patients, to ensure a smooth and stress-free checkout process:
1. Ensure all details are recorded
Read the patients file to make sure that all relevant details are mentioned. Here are a few pointers:
- Patient history which includes the name, age, gender, address, phone numbers and email adress
- Admission details such as date of admission, reason for admission, attending doctors and duration of stay
- A list of all laboratory tests done
- Procedure details, with all major and minor procedures, and doctors who performed the procedure
- Consumables, such as special life support (ventilators or oxygen cylinders), drugs administered, and disposables such as gloves, gauze, suture material, syringes, needles, and so on.
Some hospitals and insurance companies have codes assigned for all these, and will require your staff to be aware of these codes.
2. Ensure all details are mentioned
Recording all details is the first step, but communicating them to patients is a must, to avoid any misunderstandings in future. Prepare a detailed bill with the following points included:
- Stay: whether the patient chose to stay in a general ward, private ward, semi-private room, private room and the number of days admitted. In case the patient has been brought in an emergency, any ICU charges.
- Doctors’ fees: If the patient was attended to by more than one doctor, all such fees must be included. Doctors and consultants may vary their visiting charges with the ward/room taken, hence its best to clarify this.
- Tests: During the course of stay, various tests may be done and these may vary from basic blood tests to advanced tests like ECG , X-RAY, USG, ECH, MRI, CT etc. Records of all such tests must be attached with the bill.
- Procedures: In case the patient has been admitted for a procedure, the type of procedure done (major/minor) and charges incurred must be specified on the bill.
- Special needs: Some patients kept in intensive care or require life support like oxygen cylinders, ventilators etc. These are to be billed separately.
- Medications: A detailed bill of the drugs (medicines, injections, OTCs) administered during stay, during procedure and those provided to the patient during discharge must be mentioned.
3. Be compliant with insurance needs
Medical insurance is on track to being one of the biggest payers of your bills. You staff must be trained to collect insurance details from the patient, in case insurance has been claimed and a prior approval from the insurance company has been taken (i.e. ‘cashless’ treatment). Claims need to be submitted well in time and follow-ups with insurance companies need to be done regularly, to check the status of the claims.
4. Remember to include advances & deposits
Patients often pay a deposit or an advance at the beginning of their treatment. These must all be correctly mentioned in the patient’s record, preferably in a single place, to make sure due consideration is given at final settlement.
5. Anticipate questions & feedback
Remember that it is the patient’s right to ask all relevant questions about their bills. For starters, these include questions on why certain things have not been covered by insurance providers, what are the rate of taxes, what additional fees are charged, and so on. Your staff needs to be up-to-date with not just the policies of your practice, but also the terms and conditions of insurance providers. It is ideal to present a billing terms & conditions document to your patient along with the consent form and other formalities, before commencing any procedure.
Bonus tip: Bill faster with an integrated billing software
As you can see, billing is a cumbersome procedure that requires a great amount of manual work and concentration from your staff. To ease this process, here is one simple tip.
The days of using dedicated billing software are long gone. The biggest disadvantage of such software programs is that they work in a ‘silo’ – an isolated environment that has nothing to do with your medical records or patient management systems.
You will find it interesting to note that Practo Ray offers an integrated billing module that links billing with not just the patient’s medical record, but also with your inventory and pharmacy. All those billing requirements mentioned in points 1 & 2 above are thus available in a single interface. Click to know more about Practo Ray.
After a medical record, bill is the second most important document generated by any medical practice. Accurate billing is imperative for any practice and your staff must be trained to accomplish the task responsibly. All that your patient – your customer – wants is a clear and concise invoice, so he knows how much to pay and why.