Whether you offer third-party or in-house payment plans, these techniques will alert your patients to their choices in a nonjudgmental way.
It’s a true but disheartening reality that money can dictate when people with symptoms of a sleep disorder seek out diagnosis and therapy. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about half of US adults say they or a family member put off or skipped health or dental care in the past year because of the cost, including relying on home remedies or over-the-counter drugs instead of visiting a doctor (31%), postponing getting health care they needed (26%), and skipping a recommended medical test or treatment (21%). About 1 in 8 say their medical condition got worse due to delaying care or relying on alternative treatments.1
Patient financing is one way to encourage those who need care to accept medical interventions more quickly. But money can be a touchy subject for patients, so the topic should be broached in a judgement-free and consistent way by you and your team. Here are 5 best practices for accomplishing that.
1. Tell every patient about the financing options available at your practice; don’t choose only those who you suspect “can’t afford” treatment. “Patients generally appreciate having the ability to weigh their options. We recommend that practices offer financing information to all patients as you never know who might find that option to be the best path for them,” says Jenn Green, director of brand management at credit marketplace LendingClub, which offers patient financing solutions.
Gary Freestone, OD, at Freestone Optometric Center in Rialto, Calif, says in healthcare financing company CareCredit’s Smart Money magazine, “Financing is introduced as an option for all of our patients, not just those who express that they have a financial concern. At least half of our patients who opt to make their purchase via financing do so to buy even more than they would before. In other words, it isn’t just for patients who could not otherwise afford to buy anything without financing.”2
2. Use waiting room signage to unobtrusively alert patients that your practice has financing plans available. Set the tone with reception area signage. If you opt for a third-party patient financing provider, many will provide promotional materials for patients during your onboarding. For example, Lending Club gives new providers brochures (with holders) to educate patients as well as a window cling.
“We survey our borrowers yearly to get their insight on how it is to work with us, how they heard about us, and what information they find most helpful. Most often, patients hear about us prior to applying for financing directly from their provider and the materials the provider shares,” Green says. “The most used promotional materials given to patients are our brochures, which show examples of our plans, possible monthly payment options, and some great information on how easy it is to use our site to get prequalified for financing.”
3. Mention financing options on your business’s website. Many patients will research you on the web before ever picking up the phone to make an appointment. So be sure they know in advance if you offer any financing options.
“We provide web copy for practices to include on their websites that explain the benefits of patient financing along with links directly to their personalized practice online application form,” LendingClub’s Green says.
If you offer third-party financing, many companies also have provider directories on their own sites through which prospective patients can find you.
4. Designate a private area for patients who express interest in a more in-depth discussion about what types of financing they qualify for. “We advise that financial coordinators designate a private room within their facility to present all payment options to the patient,” Green says. “While doing this, we encourage the use of our online payment calculator to demonstrate all the payment options available, allowing them to select the best fit for their budget. A patient can immediately place an application or the payment calculator can be printed and given to the patient if they would prefer to consider it and make a decision at a later date.”
Be sensitive in how you phrase the application process. Ted McElroy, OD, of Vision Source Tifton in Tifton, Ga, says in a CareCredit magazine, “The words the staff members use are, ‘Let’s take a moment to see whether this is available to you today.’ That phrasing takes out the sting for those who aren’t approved. It’s better than saying, ‘Let’s see if you’re eligible.’”
If a patient’s application isn’t approved, CareCredit recommends alerting patients to any other payment options available at your practice as well as telling patients they can try again with a joint application (if that is the case with the patient financing option you offer).2
Presenting financing options can mean more patients managing their sleep disorders long term with your practice and referring others to you—which means a more sustainable business. But perhaps the most rewarding aspect is giving patients a realistic option to get much-needed care in a timely fashion. As Leslie K. writes in a testimonial about patient financing after her son was able to have a tonsillectomy for sleep apnea, “My husband and I were able to finally get a good night’s sleep after that. He had sleep apnea and could stop breathing during the night due to his enlarged tonsils. We would be half awake/half asleep always listening for his breathing to make sure he was ok. CareCredit made it possible to do the surgery sooner than later to make sure his health was our first priority…making it possible for us to get some rest.”
Sree Roy is editor of Sleep Review.
1. Kirzinger A, Muñana C, Wu B, Brodie M. Data note: Americans’ challenges with health care costs. Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation. 11 Jun 2019. Available at www.kff.org/health-costs/issue-brief/data-note-americans-challenges-health-care-costs.
2. CareCredit. SmartMoney: How Patient Financing Can Help Grow an Optometric Practice. Available at https://www.carecredit.com/providercenter/assets/views/resourcescenter/optometry/downloads/SmartMoney-PatientFinancingGrowth.pdf.