In an effort to provide an explanation of the various reasons that we update demographics, we are offering this information to try to help reduce frustration for our patients and staff. Many people think completing the demographics form is only for billing purposes; however, we update patient information for both clinical and insurance reasons as well.
First and foremost, our clinical staff relies on the most current patient demographics to reach patients to communicate results of tests and to schedule patients for follow-up appointments. Initially, they make several attempts using all phone numbers provided. We have experienced phones disconnected and voicemail boxes full, which will then result in our attempt to reach a patient by mailing a note asking the patient to call our office. The last option is to try the patient’s emergency contact and explain that we have an important message. We do not divulge any confidential information unless we have a signed Designated Party Authorization.
In addition, we need to provide current information to specialists when we are referring patients, as well as for prior authorizations for prescriptions, procedures, and testing. These are the primary clinical reasons for having the patient update their information on a regular basis.
From an insurance perspective, it is our contractual obligation with insurance companies to maintain accurate records and current patient demographics to provide the best care. We are audited by all health plans several times a year for Quality Measures and frequently are required to show proof of current information on file.
Roughly 25-30 years ago, patients would pay for their medical services and the physician’s office would give them a bill to submit their own insurance for reimbursement. Now, with participation contracts, the healthcare provider extends credit while we wait for the insurance company to process and pay the claim.
To file a claim, and receive the insurance reimbursement, we have to have the patient sign an “Assignment of Benefits” authorizing their insurance company to send the reimbursement to the provider rather than the patient. This Assignment of Benefits is part of our demographic update form.
We, like all businesses, try to keep our expenses down and make every effort to collect for all services rendered. We need current addresses to mail statements for balances due. Phone numbers are required for the collection process as well. Even though we update this information, we still receive returned mail that is unable to be forwarded, which requires our staff to invest time determining the patient’s new address and/or telephone number. Each statement mailed can cost up to $2.00 per envelope. The Billing and Collection process can be even more costly if we are unable to locate the patient and they end up in outside collection because the collection company charges a substantial percentage to collect the balance due.
We dislike the extra workload as much as the patient dislikes completing the form. Please be assured that we have only included the minimum necessary for the patient to update to make it a bit easier. We appreciate our patients’ consideration and effort.