A bill that is easy to read and understand is rare. Bluegrass Integrated Communications works with its clients all the time to improve the looks, clarity and content of their bills.
That’s one reason I was so interested in taking a look at the winner of the A Bill You Can Understand challenge, a contest organized last fall by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and AARP.
Medical organizations were challenged to make their bills clearer and easier for patients to understand. As I read about what the winning organization, RadNet, had done to win the top prize for Easiest Bill to Understand, I was struck by how the principles that guided it are the same as those we adhere to a Bluegrass Integrated Communications. Here’s a look at RadNet’s winning approach.
Before it redesigned its bills, RadNet thought long and hard about the patients it serves. That’s something all billers should do. As it created a new format for its bills, RadNet tested them with focus groups, reworked aspects that were problematic and retested its design.
Judges liked the fact that as RadNet designed a bill that was easy to understand, it didn’t oversimplify things. Its bills are informative without being overwhelming. A key to clarity was the absence of the medical jargon that only those in the medical industry would understand. RadNet also didn’t include all the complex aspects of the bill in print format; if patients wanted or needed more information, they were directed to expanded information online.
Color coding and an easy-to-read format got a thumbs up from judges. RadNet used large, clear type and used color to highlightcritical elements. A single color was used consistently for financial information such as payment due. Past due amounts were printed in red–the color and text got louder if additional past due notices were needed. Another visual cue? A photograph of the doctor or site was printed on the bill so that patients would immediately connect the bill with the care they received.
RadNet described all of the ways patients could pay and placed that information above the bill’s fold. It highlighted the option to go paperless and instructions about how to do so, but it also included a payment coupon for those who wanted to pay by mail.
Any company can easily compile a list of the questions its customers ask most often. RadNet did so and included them in an FAQ section on its bills. It also included a helpful glossary, where words or phrases often used in medical billing are explained in simple terms.
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