What are the Patient Financial Communications Best Practices?

The best practices are a comprehensive set of voluntary guidelines that apply to financial conversations with patients in all care settings. Topics addressed by the best practices include when and where financial conversations may be conducted, who should participate, what topics should be covered, and guidance for discussing issues such as financial assistance and prior balances. 

How were the best practices developed?

To develop the best practices, a broad group was convened representing consumer and trade groups and other affected stakeholders to serve as a steering committee. The committee used a consensus process in its monthly meetings to develop the best practices over the course of a year. Their work was informed by public comments received over a six-week period in 2013.

The project was overseen by an advisory panel chaired by Gov. Mike Leavitt (R-Utah) that includes former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and attorney Jamie Gorelick.

What is Adopter recognition?

Adopter recognition is designed as a way for healthcare providers to demonstrate their commitment to excellence in patient financial communications.  The recognition is based on HFMA's review of an application and supporting documents that describe an organization's practices. It’s a self-attestation process; no on-site review is involved. The recognition is valid for two years.

Who is eligible to apply for Adopter recognition?

All healthcare provider organizations may apply. Applications may be at the individual provider level or at the system level. For example, a hospital system consisting of three hospitals may complete one application for the system, or may apply using separate applications for each individual hospital. A physician group practice, however, would apply on behalf of the entire group.

What is the cost to apply?

There is no fee to apply or to receive Adopter recognition.

What communications tools and support are available to Adopter organizations?

Adopters receive a Communications Toolkit with a sample press release, newsletter article web copy, emails for employees and Board members, and social media posts.  Adopters may use the phrase "Supporter of the Patient Financial Communications Best Practices" in their marketing materials. They also receive a certificate suitable for framing and display. Adopter organizations will be listed on HFMA’s website and quarterly in HFMA’s flagship magazine, hfm.

How can we assess our readiness to apply for Adopter recognition?

HFMA has developed a checklist for organizations to use as a self-assessment. Doing this self- assessment can help you identify areas for improvement, whether or not you plan to apply for Adopter recognition. 

What communications training should patient access staff receive? How often should they receive it?

The best practices call for annual training on the organization’s financial assistance policies for all staff who engage in patient financial discussions, including patient access, financial counseling, and customer service representatives. Training may be provided through a variety of forums, including web-based and in-person, and may be furnished by qualified internal or external parties as deemed appropriate by a designated quality officer. Training must cover the following topics:

  • Patient financial communications best practices specific to the staff role
  • Financial assistance policies
  • Available patient financing options
  • Alternative solutions for the uninsured
  • Standard language to be used in patient discussions
  • Laws and regulations, such as EMTALA, the Fair Debt Collections Practice Act, and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, specific to the staff role

HFMA has developed a Patient Financial Communications Training Program, a complete online training solution based on the best practices. Designed for staff who have financial conversations with patients, the program features scenario-based lessons so staff can work at their own pace along with an online toolkit that includes sample financial policies.