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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Healthcare providers get creative about collections

Observation:  Today’s New York Times includes a story about evolving debt collection practices used by various hospitals and healthcare systems.  Specifically, the article focuses on an investigation by Minnesota attorney general Lori Swanson into the practices of a company called Accretive Health.  Click here to see the story.

Implications:   As consumers read this story, surely they will be outraged at some of the tactics that are alleged.  (I must agree that it would be very disheartening to be greeted in an emergency room by someone who looked like a medical care staffer but who was really a credit services employee.)

At the same time, this article might be emblematic of a health care system that has become dysfunctional.  Private hospitals and clinics must do more than attract patients; they must attract patients who can pay.  Even those healthcare providers who are funded or subsidized in some way by the government or non-profit agencies are having a tough time making ends meet.

It is not my intent to start a conversation about the politics of healthcare, only to suggest that the mechanics of it—the business model—needs attention.  If you are a healthcare provider, could your dialogue with prospective patients (marketing) do a better job of explaining the mechanics of healthcare?  Would there be value in explaining the investment that has been made in staff, facilities, and years of training, in the interest of providing state-of-the-art care?  Should more marketing be done to attract “qualified” patients—patients who can pay—to off-set the number of unemployed or uninsured patients that a hospital might service?

There are too many questions to think that there is only one right answer.  But it appears that healthcare providers are prepared to consider just about anything.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

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