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The Key to Making Rural Hospitals More Sustainable and Financially Stable

Rural hospitals across the nation are facing an unprecedented financial crisis. They’re struggling across the board to keep their bottom line and provide services in their areas. Their rural locations make it challenging to be consistent with patient numbers, and yet they are vital to those rural locations. When these facilities are forced to close, it leaves thousands of people with no immediate healthcare nearby.

More than 600 known rural hospitals are facing the threat of closure right now. Even more are being forced to suspend services or limit the services that they can offer in an effort to minimize costs and keep their doors open.

What can be done to make rural hospitals more sustainable and financially stable? These small changes can make a major difference, but it will take a change from the top down to help most rural hospitals survive.

1. Medicare & Medicaid Changes

As of January 1, 2023, rural hospitals fall into a category covered by Medicare and Medicaid to receive slightly more pay for contracted treatments. Medicare and Medicaid pay specific dollar amounts for specific services, but the ruling says they will pay 5% more to Rural Emergency Hospitals.

In order to qualify, the facility needs to be deemed a “rural emergency hospital.” The coverage includes any provided outpatient services at that facility. The rule encourages these facilities to primarily focus on outpatient care, transporting those who need inpatient care to other facilities.

This ruling will certainly help provide additional income to these facilities, but there is more that will needed to keep them afloat.

2. Self-Pay Collection Changes

Most rural hospitals already rely on outpatient care and treatment to sustain them financially. The challenge really comes down to collecting payment from those who self-pay or have out-of-pocket balances remaining after insurance and contracts pay.

Collecting from self-pay balances is perhaps the biggest area to make adjustments in order to sustain these hospitals. The revenue cycle depends on collecting self-pay quickly and effectively.

The real change to your revenue cycle stems from using technology to help source the work, rather than overworking staff that is struggling to effectively collect outstanding payments. Pair technology with appropriate staffing to get things do.

Take a look at these solutions that involve technology and engage the clients in providing payment solutions.

3. Financial Responsibility Self-Service

The individuals coming to a rural hospital for care know they need immediate care, but they rarely know what their financial responsibility will be up front for the visit.

When a hospital invests in software and self-service tools that can help accommodate this information, it makes it much easier to have those financial conversations with clients right away. RPA, or robotic process automation, can help significantly with setting realistic expectations for outpatient services for clients.

The clients have financial information at their fingertips, whether it’s the immediate cost of care, setting up payment plans, or taking responsibility to ensure payment is made timely and knowing they understand their financial responsibility.

4. Omnichannel Contactless Services

Everyone is connected to technology these days. When a patient receives digital reminders and options, they are far more likely to pay. A survey completed reported that 48% of healthcare consumers prefer contactless payments.

Take advantage of notifying your clients of bills and balances digitally, and providing clients with the means to pay digitally as well. No customer wants to spend precious time on hold waiting to make a payment, or leave a voicemail that may never get returned.

Put payment and billing at their digital fingertips through the use of omnichannel technology. It simplifies their lives and yours by ensuring they get the bill and have access to pay it at their convenience.

Do the research to determine the best time to send these texts and reminders so you get paid when they get sent.

5. Automated Account Resolutions

Not every patient will have the means to pay their full balance up front. Clients need to have options available to them. They are more likely to pay when those options are clear and easily made available. Again, they don’t want to waste time on hold begging for more options, but they do want to pay the bill to the best of their abilities.

Clients need to know about possible payment plans, what their financial options are, and whether they may qualify for any form of assistance. Having automated options for all of their payment solutions is the best way to get pai. Make payment resolution convenient and simple for your patients through the use of automation and technology. It’s the best way to win on both sides.

6. Show Your Clients You Care

Technology can make a huge difference in making rural hospitals more sustainable and financially stable, but you also need staff that cares and will work to help accommodate your patients. Invest in technology that simplifies the billing and payment process, but take the time to train on customer service and provide for your client needs as well.

It’s a challenging time with rising costs and inflation side effects. Show your patients compassion, but provide them privacy, convenience, and options. This is how rural hospitals can be better at collecting self-pay and can keep their doors open longer.