The advantages of paying for medical services in cash accrue as much to the clinic as to the patients themselves.
What defines a cash paying patient?
Another word used to describe a cash paying patient is ‘self-paying’ patient. Self-paying patients are those who pay for their treatment directly rather than using private health insurance.
Why should doctors be looking at increasing the flow of their cash paying patients?
1. More time with patients
Well the reason is quite simple. They are able to spend more time with individual patients and provide better care, without compromising on the revenue targets that they have set for themselves.
2. Saving time on administrative work associated with insurers.
Another advantage, put forward by physicians who have a cash-only practice, is that of severing their ties with the insurance companies. Previously they had to spend a huge amount of time, energy and capital to the administrative work of billing insurance companies.
The prices that physicians and surgeons set for the patients are meant to cover all costs related to patient care. These include the time and labor that they spend in processing insurance claims. These claims are compensated months after the doctors have rendered their services. A cash paying patient obviates the need for a middle-man insurer. You get paid immediately for the services you have provided.
What are the benefits to patients by opting to pay in cash?
1. They get more face to face time with the doctor.
Doctors spending more time with patients implies that patients get more face-toface time which leads to increased overall satisfaction. So a cash paying patient feels he is getting better value for money and that the quality of care has improved.
2. It enables them to be more cost-conscious.
When it is a third party, be it the government or the insurance provider, who pays for most of the medical costs, patients tend to overconsume when it comes to medical care. But when they pay cash, they are prudent in finding out each particular treatment’s costs to decide what would work best for them.
3. They can avail of discounted rates
Clinics and hospitals offer discounts for cash payments and this is largely because they have cut down their own administrative hassles and work time by keeping a third party out of the loop.More and more people are opting to pay in cash for their health services because of higher health insurance deductibles and rising out of pocket costs. They are more than willing to pay a fee to have a 24X7 access and a longer time with their doctor during their consultation visits.
The system of paying in cash to the doctor was once seen as the preserve of the rich and the famous. But nowadays many people seeking cash-based care are middle-class people. We’ve already established that cash-paying patients mean a whole lot of good for you and your practice, so let’s now see how we can increase the number of cash paying patients to your clinic.
1. Be transparent about prices
Once your patients are clear about how much they have to pay and for what services, they would be more inclined to visit your clinic and be willing to pay cash upfront.
2. Make payment process easy
If you make your payment process easy and accessible it would motivate patients to visit your facility. Allow your patients to pay with a debit or credit card or even allow them to pay online on your patient portal.
3. Devise an instalment payment plan
Just in case the treatment is long and involves many stages, you could offer the patients an instalment plan to pay just in case their bills are so large that they cannot pay the entire amount at one time.
4. Offer booking of appointments online
You need to make it easy for your patients to have access to your services. Help them reduce time and effort by booking an appointment online. This would also enable them to book appointments without being curtailed by your working hours.
5. Use social media effectively
Social media is the best place to engage with your patients and getting them to talk about your facilities. Find out where your patients congregate and build your presence there. Do not try to be everywhere, instead choose one or two networks which have the strongest presence and make those your your start point. Facebook would seem the most plausible place to start out.
6. Search Engine Optimization
Use keywords – your speciality, treatment or services – for your social media profile as well as your website to ensure that when a potential patient types his requirement on a search bar, your name figures among the top searches.
7. Focus on educating your patient
Your content, be it on social media or your website, should essentially be of some service to your patients in terms of educating them. You must have information on your site that is educative. This should include why cash payment is good for the patients
8. Have a blog
Your blog could be your biggest differentiating factor, the least expensive and most effective. A blog is personal and when a patient reads it, you are making a personal connect with your reader. With a blog you can talk to your cash-paying patients and encourage them to visit your clinic.
9. Get your patients to talk about you online
Online reviews are the most credible reputation builders for your practice. Ask your patients to talk about how cash payment at your facility has helped ease their lives. Let them give a review of how satisfied they were after the visit to your clinic.
10.Educate your prospective patients via content on cash payments
Apart from talking about the advantages of coming to you for their healthcare needs, you also need to educate your patients on how cash payment is a better option for them. You could provide links to sites that talk about cash payment or even build your own content, publishing it on your blog or social media.
11.Employ PR services
Get the media to talk about your clinic in a non-advertising tone. You could yourself write articles on medical subjects and increase your chances of being recognized as a known face. Alternatively you could peg your newspaper story on some human angle, or new technology or unusual services that your clinic offers.
12. Create YouTube videos
Visual content is more attention grabbing than any other. If you have videos on various topics of interest to your patients, you become more approachable and accessible to someone who has frequently seen you in those videos.
13.Let patients know of your billing policy
Patients are more likely to pay in cash if they know exactly what to expect. You can create a billing policy and make it available for your patients to see by putting it up on your website and your office. In case of any changes to the policy, you should update your patients about it.
14. Have a long term subscription model
You could offer a yearly plan to the patients for them to have access to you throughout the year for an annual fees. This would seem attractive and economical to cash-paying patient who need to visit the doctor on a regular basis through the year.
15. Offer discounts for cash paying patients
The word discount makes an instant dent on a consumer’s imagination. More people would be willing to pay in cash if they know that there is a discount associated with it.
Conclusion : Cash paying patients are like consumers in any other sector. They economise for big purchases, want transparency in price and billing and are willing to pay for services that they feel add value. In that light so long as you are offering them services that satisfy the consumer in them, more and more cash paying patients will be willing to walk that extra mile right up to your clinic.