With the requirement for greater fees transparency and recent General Data Protection Regulation, many private doctors would do well to review their terms, warns Findlay Fyfe (left)
It is a good time to consider your fees right now – and here is why.
As we know, the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) is due to publish data on its consumer based website from early 2019.
This will enable patients to have more information to decide who treats them and where the treatment takes place.
And this all ties in with the requirement on consultants to make patients aware of their fees in advance of treatment.
With this now on the horizon, we at Medical Billing and Collection (MBC) are recommending getting ahead of the curve and thinking about this now while there is time to deal with it in an unhurried way.
Patient registration form
For pricing in a commercial environment, a set of business terms and conditions will describe how the company will conduct its business and the document will normally form part of a commercial contract.
In private healthcare, particularly for consultants, this will be your patient registration form.
On this form, it is good practice to describe how transactions will take place between the patient and the practice. If you were to use a third-party company such as MBC, a simple line should be added to state that MBC will carry out all billing and collection requirements for the practice.
If you want to communicate – for marketing – with the patient after treatment, you will need to have an opt in/out question asking clearly if the patient would like to be included in these emails and communications. This will comply with your General Data Protection Regulation requirements.
A practice may also consider having a consultant’s biography for the patient, including any performance statistics and papers written. But if you do this, please ensure you diarise time to keep this up to date.
The most important thing is the patient is clearly aware of all information before treatment starts.
In our experience, when a patient has private health insurance, many automatically assume that all the costs will be covered under this policy, whereas in reality there can be shortfalls or limitations of cover, resulting in a secondary invoice for the patient.
Typically, few patients read the small print of their policy where any limitation will be highlighted. Your patient registration form should also inform the patient of any additional charges such as charges for non-attendance or last-minute cancellations.
And it should also detail any areas where the practice charges for items traditionally not covered by private medical insurers. These could include phone consultations and prescription services.
All the above information should be included into a patient registration form, as well as any other commercial considerations specific to your practice, such as domiciliary visits.
If your practice has a website, I would suggest that the wording exactly matches that on your registration form and is consistent across all media.
I appreciate there are too many variables to cover all of them in this article, but I have provided an example of how you can use a template (opposite) and adapt it to your practice.