With patients having more financial responsibility for their healthcare, outpatient settings like surgery centers are becoming more attractive to patients. In general, surgical procedures at ASC’s are 35% to 50% lower than hospitals.

Research from Bain & Co. estimates that the number of procedures taking place in outpatient surgery centers will rise from 23 million in 2018 to 27 million in 2021. ASC’s performed more than half of all outpatient surgeries in 2017 (up from 32% in 2005) and this trend is set to increase in the coming years. This steady growth for ASC’s presents new opportunities but also new challenges.

The major challenges include:

Rising patient costs (even in outpatient settings)

Aside from patients taking on more financial responsibility with high-deductible health plans, healthcare costs are also rising even in outpatient settings. According to a TransUnion study, patients’ out-of-pocket costs averaged $1,109 for an outpatient visit in 2018 (up 12% compared with $990 in 2017). A survey by The Commonwealth Fund found that 79 million Americans have problems with medical bills or debt.

Non-payment of services

According to a TransUnion Health study in 2016, 68 percent of patients with up to $500 in medical bills didn’t pay off the full balance, a 19 percentage point increase from 2014. The main reasons are higher deductibles and the increase in patient responsibility from 10% percent to 30 percent over the last few years.

Slower patient collection times and higher A/R days

A Crowe Horwath study revealed that collection rates for patient accounts with balances greater than $5,000 were four times lower than those with low-deductible health plans. The same study also revealed that the outpatient payment rate for self-pay after insurance patients was just 23.7 percent on accounts with balances between $1 and $5,000. However, the outpatient payment rate declined to just 4.7 percent among patients who owed more than $5,000 but less than $7,500. Therefore, the average self-payment payment rate for patients who had out-pocket-costs for outpatient services was 18.2 percent.

With the challenges mentioned above, how would your ASC respond? Here are 3 tips for ASC’s to improve their revenue cycle:

  • Addressing costs and transparency

Most patients expect to make a payment, and more than 90 percent want to know their financial responsibility before a provider visit or procedure. ASC’s need to make sure estimates don’t deviate too much from the patients’ actual bill, else the patient experience will suffer.

  • Prioritizing the patient financial experience

With the patient financial portion steadily going up, it’s important to customize the financial experience so that patients have more options to pay in full. To improve the patient financial experience, ASC’s would do well by adding online payments, mobile payments, and payment plans. Patients are more likely to “partially” pay hospitals for their financial responsibility as shown by a TransUnion Health analysis (the proportion of individuals making partial payments toward their hospital medical bills rose from about 89 percent in 2015 to 77 percent in 2016).

  • Optimizing patient collections 

In addition to providing financial estimates before or at the point-of-service, ASC’s can optimize patient collections by implementing point-of-service or pre-service payment options.

According to a TransUnion survey, about 46 percent of younger patients claim they would be able to pay more patient financial responsibility at the point-of-service if they received a cost estimate. Place more emphasis on collecting at point-of-service and on self-service collection so that paying a bill is as convenient as possible