It is no secret that Coronavirus (COVID-19) has shaken up just about every industry. However, it would be an understatement to say that it has especially affected the healthcare industry.
Because the virus is so new—having only been introduced in 2019—there has been an abundance of confusion around it. At the beginning of the year, healthcare officials were not even sure masks would help protect the population. Many of the same officials asked patients to stay home if they thought they might have COVID-19 but could manage the symptoms. This was due to several shortages at hospitals.
But how has COVID-19 affected debt collection? In our previous post, we explained why it is a good time to make changes to your healthcare organization amidst the chaos of COVID-19 and 2020 in general. In this post, we’re going to focus on how the pandemic has shifted the industry toward telehealth. We’ll also discuss how you can navigate this shift as debt collectors.
Let’s dive in.
COVID-19 and Telehealth
As we mentioned before, hospitals flooded with patients earlier in the year, and that strain has not eased yet throughout much of the United States. Because of that, in-person care became tough to receive for many—and sometimes even dangerous. High-risk patients such as seniors or those with underlying conditions could experience more danger by receiving in-person care.
That’s one of the contributing factors for the shift toward telehealth.
Telehealth can decrease the risk of exposure and aide in the prevention of spreading COVID-19 within hospitals and healthcare organizations. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, telehealth has helped “reduce staff exposure to ill persons, preserve personal protective equipment (PPE), and minimize the impact of patient surges on facilities.”
That’s not to say telehealth is a new phenomenon by any means - the pandemic has simply forced the rapid adoption of it like never before. Before COVID-19, both patients and healthcare personnel slowly adopted telehealth. That was due to several barriers that have now been dismissed in the wake of the pandemic.
But how does telehealth affect debt collection?
Telehealth and Debt Collection
One thing the pandemic has not changed is debt and the need to collect it. Even though COVID-19 has resulted in high unemployment rates, the cost of medical care still exists. But telehealth has helped alleviate some of the economic strain put on the U.S. as a whole and financial strain put on individual patients.
Simply put, telehealth is less expensive than in-person care.
In fact, according to a Connect With Care study, the average estimated cost of a telehealth visit is $40 to $50 per visit compared to $136 to $176 for in-person acute care. Because of that reduction, healthcare organizations are able to increase access to care and decrease the risk of exposure to healthcare professionals.
This helps with debt collection because it means more people are able to access healthcare but fewer are receiving bills that they simply can’t pay. However, there are still a few things to keep in mind while navigating this shift, especially during the pandemic.
Navigating Debt Collection During COVID-19
Debt collection is always a tough balance to strike for healthcare providers. Hospitals need to make sure their patients experience the best care and are satisfied with their experience while also ensuring the same patients pay their debts.
Telehealth is a model that helps with this because it is focused around “consumer-oriented conveniences,” according to Healthcare Finance News. The publication also said telehealth is helpful because it enables healthcare providers to ask for the payment up front. That means fewer surprises.
One thing to keep in mind, even with the shift toward telehealth during COVID-19, is that there is a human on the other end of that communication. That’s why you need to make sure your agents are highly-trained experts. They need to approach the process with professionalism and empathy.
Also, even though telehealth helps patients save money, the high unemployment rate is still affecting many. Because of this, many patients may not be able to pay upfront. When possible, establishing payment plans will help them balance paying their bills over a few months instead of taking a huge chunk out of their wallets at once.
Lastly, make sure you keep up-to-date on the laws and regulations regarding telehealth and debt collection. In normal circumstances, these laws and regulations are apt to change frequently. However, the pandemic has accelerated the need for healthcare, so tweaks to laws and regulations are likely.
Contact Us For Your Debt Collection Needs
To learn more about Credit Management Company and how we can help you navigate this shift toward telehealth, contact us.