A lot of good things can happen when people go to the hospital. Great clinical care certainly tops the list, but there are more ways patients benefit than just that – and finding help to pay medical expenses is a big one.
Hospitals commonly assist self-pay patients who are applying for resources to help cover their bills. Specific hospital models vary, but typically an internal financial counseling department or outsourced vendor partner helps patients with Medicaid screening and application while the patients are in-house receiving treatment.
However, no one wants to stay in the hospital longer than necessary, and patients are often eager to return to the familiar comforts of home as soon as they’re able.
Unfortunately, many patients are discharged before screening and application for financial assistance are completed. They may still need to supply supporting documentation to prove their eligibility. Once they’re out of the hospital, they no longer have convenient access to experts who can help them understand their options, and they may lose interest in pursuing help with their medical bills altogether.
Not only could this negatively affect the overall patient experience, it also can impact the hospital’s bottom line. When patients don’t receive financial assistance that’s available to them, hospitals could lose revenue.
That’s where field visits come in. At MedData, when patients cannot be screened in the hospital, an extensive network of field advocates begins outreach. Field visits often serve the highest need, most at-risk patients/accounts. MedData field advocates go to the patient wherever they are – sometimes this means going to their home or meeting them at their place of employment. Other times it means trying to track them down at a homeless shelter or meeting with them while they are incarcerated.
MedData’s field advocates not only conduct visits to assist with application materials, but they also ensure appointments are kept and transportation needs are met. Kim Miller, a Seattle-based field advocate for MedData, recently noted, “It can be really hard for patients to get somewhere to fill out paperwork if they are sick or don’t have a car, or even to keep it on their radar to get the application in on time. And it’s our role to help with that.”
Field visits accomplish a variety of objectives. Field advocates can:
- Locate patients who have moved or who had incomplete contact information and screen them for eligibility across a range of programs.
- Obtain patient applications, documents and signatures necessary to secure appropriate resources to pay their medical bills.
- Assist on phone interviews with patients who have communication challenges or when there is confusion over the subject matter. For example, Sarah Sparks, a Minneapolis-based field advocate for MedData, shared this anecdote: “I was working with a patient who was completely blind and mostly deaf. Doing anything over the phone was not an option. I visited him and his son three times to help.”
- Contribute to other service lines beyond eligibility by obtaining a coordination of benefits (COB) form or other forms for insurance billing, or even by helping start a claim.
Through continuing outreach, successful field visits generate certifications (securing coverage for an account) that might not have occurred without this additional level of attention given to patients. MedData recently conducted an internal review of its field advocacy program and revealed encouraging numbers.
In 2016, MedData field advocates made nearly 50,000 field visits, resulting in securing additional information, applications, and documentation on accounts totaling over $511M in charges. In that time, MedData’s Eligibility Services alone certified $203 million charges through field work, for about $30.5 million in actual reimbursement for clients.
To learn more about how MedData’s field advocacy program produces tangible ROI in a way that other vendors can’t, download the white paper.