Friday, August 23, 2013

How Do Your Crew Members Represent Billing Policy?

But the Ambulance “Driver” Said… 
I’ll bet we hear this phrase no less than once or twice per week, here at the billing office.

It’s the phone call from the disturbed patient who just received a bill who is calling to complain. As the customer service team member quickly takes a deep breath, verifies the identity of the caller for HIPAA purposes and then accesses the account, the caller quickly explains his/her earlier encounter with your staff member…

“I received this bill in the mail for when I used the ambulance. But the ambulance driver said it would be billed to insurance and I wouldn’t get a bill!”

Now… we’ve got a bit of a problem. Let’s take a look at what can be done to keep this from happening.

Education is Key
This is an education issue… or a lack of education issue, really.

The key question here for you, as an EMS administrator, is… Do your street crew members have any clue what your department’s billing policies are?

Now this doesn’t mean that every single one of your street staff will become Certified Ambulance Coders or become ambulance billing scholars, but it does mean that you take the time as part of your training program to educate your staff about the key policies that your billing office will follow after the run is completed.

We highly recommend that every new recruit that passes through your doors participates in at least a one-half hour crash course on what not to say to people. But, then why not take it one step further and throughout their experience with your department make sure you pepper some training here and there on what your billing policies are to school them on how to answer the probable questions your patients may pose to those staff members.

I don’t know!
Empower your crews to simply answer a patient’s questions with three powerful words, “I don’t know.”

Make sure your people understand that they don’t have to answer each and every question that a patient poses, especially when it comes to the sometimes confusing billing process.

However, that being said… also make sure that your crews understand that they can assure the patient that someone who DOES KNOW will contact them, after the run, to give them information about how the billing process will be handled.

Here’s where some basic customer service principles have to be infused into your street staff. Telling a patient “I don’t know” gets them out of a jam, but it may also frustrate the patient who wants an answer to his/her question. Impress upon your street staff members that they need to take ownership of the patient’s question beyond deflecting their question and return to the station with a mandate to pass the question onto their supervisor or someone in the billing office who will then follow-through with an answer back to the patient to help resolve the inquiry.

All Kinds of Twists and Turns
Think about it. There are all kinds of twists and turns and we can’t expect the people in the field to be “know-it-all’s.” It’s unfair to them.

For example, brainstorm all the possible questions a patient may have and it’s a bit overwhelming. Questions arise about subscription programs for those departments that have such programs for anything from what co-pays and deductibles the patient will or will not be billed for to what trips are covered under the promises of the program.

Then there may be patient questions about what insurances pay and don’t pay. We’ve had patients ask us specific questions about their individual eligibility with their health plan. Add to that patients’ misunderstanding of the concept of emergency versus non-emergency or add to the mix questions about bills for treatment/no transport scenarios.

Clearly you can see how a crew member that speaks out-of-turn, even if he/she means well can really heap some coals of fire on the head of an already confused patient that is nervous about paying that bill he/she received.

Take the Time
Taking the time to provide some basic education about your department’s billing policies will go a long way to help resolve some potential damaging issues for your billing office.

No one wants to stress a patient or their family beyond the worries they may already be experiencing over their health- or injury-related scenario. Part of the patient care loop is calming the patient. Teach your street staff to reassure patients about billing and pass questions they are unable to effectively answer onto those in your organization who can answer correctly and affirmatively.

Doing so will go a long way toward painting your department in a positive light within your community as you control the pathway of mis-information and the potential for damaging communication.

We’re Here to Help
Not sure how to go about educating your staff? Need some advice or help?

That’s what we’re here for. Contact us today. Current clients can pick the brain of our knowledgeable and experienced Client Services department.

If you’re an ambulance service and you’re reading this, but you’ve never received any guidance from your current billing company or internal billing office then maybe it’s time to check-out what Enhanced can bring to the table for you.

Take a minute to reach out to our Business Development Manager, Chuck Humphrey to learn how you can tap into the kind of support mechanisms offered on an ongoing basis to Enhanced clients. Chuck can be reached via e-mail at chumphrey@enhancedms.com or toll-free by phone at (800) 369-7544.
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