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By: Marty Snyder
Topics: patient-centered

Since partnering with PFS Group, our healthcare system partners report a 20-50% increase in cash from their patients, on average.

Healthcare systems’ reason-for-being is to serve patients and foster good health. It runs counter to this mission for patients to invest time to figure out bills—or even worse, become frustrated with a hospital’s billing department. That’s why a customer-centric approach needs to pervade every aspect of a healthcare system—especially accounts receivable (A/R).

The expanded importance of customer service reps and A/R call centers

Call centers may have started off to alleviate the burden on office personnel, and maintain uniform standards for answering clients/patients’ questions. But today, their role is much more vital. One industry study found that “call centers generate an ROI of at least 3 to 1 and are an essential driver of hospital revenue, profitability, and patient loyalty.” Call centers drive profits.

The same study also found that patients who call with questions and concerns form a profitability pipeline, deserving of attentive care:

  • 60% are repeat callers
  • Repeat callers use more hospital services than one-time callers
  • The retention rate of callers over three years is 70%, compared to 46% for non-callers

For hospitals, the takeaway is clear: complement professional care with a billing department that’s equally compassionate and helpful. When a hospital’s purpose aligns with a patient-friendly approach, the organization can simultaneously boost its brand—and stand apart amidst quickening competition. 

Rather than costing money to implement, a consumer-centric approach saves the organization money, too. PFS’s data shows that a caller, on average, spends 6-10 minutes with an experienced accounts receivable customer service representative (CSR). This number rapidly increases when the CSR is not fully trained. 

Healthcare systems need to ask themselves:

  • Do our CSRs listen to the patient? 
  • Does our billing department solidify trust—or undermine it?
  • Can our customer service reps clearly explain statements and quickly answer questions—all while sounding friendly and compassionate? 
  • Do our CSRs also double as brand ambassadors? 

Revenue, profitability, loyalty. They are all intertwined—and their success often hinges on who is answering calls in the billing department and how they are handling them. Here are three areas where a highly trained, customer-focused team can make an impact:

  1. High deductibles. With the size of premiums, deductibles, copayments, and other patient responsibilities  increasing by 67% in the past decade (three times faster than wage growth in the same period), patients and their families are now responsible for covering a larger portion of their hospital bill. And with that much money coming out of paychecks and savings accounts, they are more interested in how their responsibility is derived. Whether for delivering a baby, surgery, ER visits, or cancer treatments, patients have become increasingly savvy about their options.
  2. Multiple bills. Based on our experiences, patients can expect to receive at least three bills per a given visit for any combination of physicians, facilities, and lab. While this makes total sense from an internal billing stream point of view, sometimes from a patient’s perspective, they see three statements for a single event or procedure—causing concern and confusion. So while multiple billing streams seem to be with us for a while, healthcare systems can utilize the interpersonal skills of a trained CSR to replace stress with clarity, confirm accuracy, and offer reassurance. Additionally, we also offer a UniBill ® solution, which consolidates all of a patient’s accounts under one statement.
  3. Word-of-mouth reviews. Pre-internet, word of mouth about hospitals was limited, except for some good (or bad) press coverage. Now, with social media and its potential for virality, there is no cap on reach or impact. Healthcare systems don’t want to risk a scathing Facebook post, raging tweet, or caustic blog post because of a bill misunderstanding. According to the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, in the U.S., when it comes to customer service experiences, people share their feelings. But, those who have a poor experience tell more people than those who have a good one: 15 vs. 11. Looking a little deeper, 68% of those surveyed reported a pleasant representative is key to creating a positive experience, and 62% noted a representative’s knowledge or resourcefulness was key as well. 
    The advantages of having a well trained customer service team far outweigh any costs. Qualtrics reports that 77% of customers would recommend a company (be it retail, service provider—or healthcare) to a friend after having a positive experience with the company. Mitigate the risk of negative word of mouth by partnering with a patient financial services team that makes customers’ needs a priority. When an accounts receivable department is staffed with CSRs that thoughtfully respond to and resolve concerns, and the billing processes are aligned with patients’ ability to pay, relationships are solidified and praise reigns.

Patient-friendly equates to return on investment 

An investment into better AR procedures and people results in greater ROI. Keep in mind this frequently quoted stat from the Harvard Business Review: it is 5 to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. When billing departments are designed with patients in mind at every step, being patient-friendly can actually streamline processes, increase revenue, and decrease costs. 

In the case of the local or regional healthcare system, it means attracting more patients, nurturing patient loyalty, generating goodwill within the community, and optimizing cash. With PFS Group’s experience in providing superior customer service, accounts receivable can bolster a system’s bottom line along with its reputation. 

To learn more about how our customer service solutions can make your billing department more patient-friendly and efficient, reach out to PFS Group today. 



About PFS Group

Based in Houston TX, with satellite offices in Crystal City TX, Fresno CA, and Raleigh-Durham NC, we are managing over $3 billion in accounts receivable for 25+ of the nation's leading health systems. From small, rural community medical centers to metro population hubs and academic health systems, we are driven to provide 100% patient satisfaction and operational excellence matched to your needs.

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