Tuesday 29 June 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly caused significant disruption to the Private Healthcare industry since March last year. From new ways of working to considerable changes in revenue opportunities, the past 16 months shaken the sector to the core.
While the start of 2020 kicked off with a positive rise of 3-4% in privately funded care, we saw these numbers immediately plummet by 30% as the country went into a national lockdown.
To combat the huge strain on health services, the most responsible and effective route was for the NHS to enlist the help of the private sector in an effort to fight the virus. Inevitably, this change of focus led to a drop in privately funded care as non-urgent elective procedures were postponed. In fact, according to data from PHIN, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in an overall estimated drop of 84% in privately funded care by June of that year.
The impact on private medical specialties
The type of private treatments delivered during the pandemic has also changed significantly. Urgent and time-critical care, such as medical oncology, has become the largest single specialty performed. Approximately 63% of all privately funded admissions in May 2020 were for cancer treatments.
While private care for oncology has continued to hold steady ever since, admissions for nearly all other specialties dropped considerably. Many have experienced a gradual increase towards the end of the year and into the first half of 2021, however, the uptake has been slow overall and was undoubtedly affected by another national lockdown in January 2021.
The only exception to this has been for trauma and orthopaedics which is beginning to mirror the pre-pandemic numbers of Jan/Feb 2020.
New ways of working for medical professionals
Despite halting the majority of admissions and in-person consultations for the private sector, there have been some positive developments to keep revenue ticking over which are expected to remain in the future. Virtual appointments and telemedicine have become an effective way of providing private healthcare and are also now widely accepted practises for insurers.
Virtual consultations have come with the added benefit of upfront payment prior to the appointment. Being an online booking transaction and with the general increase in use of digital technology throughout lockdown, patients are likely more willing and understanding of this pre-payment process than if previously asked for upfront payment for an in-person consultation.
With these new and ever-developing ways of working, plus an intrinsic need to improve your revenue turnover, the key to your practice’s recovery from COVID-19 is ensuring you have a robust and experienced administration team to support you through these changes.
The importance of a strong support team
Having a solid admin foundation (that includes billing and collection processes) is crucial if you want your practice to recover successfully from the impact of the pandemic and continue to grow. Here are our top tips for building a great support team and making sure you have the best admin processes in place:
1. Allow your secretary to focus on what’s most important
You need to ensure that your secretary has enough time to focus on what’s most important. First and foremost, their attention should always be on patient care and improving the patient experience. They could also be helping you develop your practice for further growth through marketing communications. However, in doing this it leaves little time for much else, so chasing unpaid invoices will often slip to the bottom of the to-do list.
2. Outsource processes such as billing and collection
While the thought of outsourcing your billing and collection processes may seem counterintuitive when trying to recover your profitability, the average consultant actually has between 10-15% of their fees left unpaid – costing you much more than an external service provider! A billing and collection service can help you vastly improve your debt levels and take away the stress of pursuing outstanding payments. For instance, at Bill Medical we’re proud to have the lowest debt level for our clients at just 0.28%.
3. Streamline your insurance claim workflows
Different insurance companies each have their own procedures and fees in place so the billing process can be incredibly time consuming and confusing for many. A billing software and service can be a huge time saver on this front and also help you streamline those workflows.
4. Simplify your virtual consultation and upfront payment process
With remote consultations becoming the norm, having an intuitive and seamless booking and invoicing process will help you avoid confusion with upfront payments and make things easier when it comes to managing your patient’s invoices or insurance claims.
5. Ensure the correct coding is in place
Using the correct codes when creating your invoices can be a bit of a minefield and will often slow reimbursement from an insurer if not done correctly. Having the right technology and experience in place can help you avoid mistakes (for instance, using the code for a face-to-face appointment instead of a remote consultation) and will get your invoices settled a lot quicker.
6. Be sympathetic towards your patient’s circumstances
The pandemic has been incredibly stressful for everyone - whether that’s personally, professionally or financially - and for many people, medical treatment has been forced to take a back seat or delayed. Having a level of understanding of their financial situation is vital to improve their patient experience. Introducing a payment scheme can solve many a headache for both patients and consultants alike.
7. Maximise your income opportunities
Some medical billing services will offer you fee benchmarking and coding advice to ensure you are making the most out of every invoice. At Bill Medical, for example, we work closely with many insurers to gather as much data as possible to help our clients bill appropriately and in line with industry standards.
Start your practice’s recovery from COVID-19 now
With the private healthcare industry set to recover steadily throughout 2021, now is the time to make sure you are on the front foot to not only regroup from the impact of COVID-19 but also grow your practice’s revenue and profitability.
Having the right support in place is fundamental to achieving this objective, and a great place to start is improving your billing and collection processes.
If you’d like to find out more about our range of services and experience, feel free to get in touch with a member of our friendly team.