With the development of the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) following the Competition and Markets Authority pushing for greater transparency over consultant fees, and hospitals publishing more information about specialists who use their facilities, it is important to be clear in your patient registration process what your fees will be.
In any commercial environment, the ‘terms and conditions’ describe how the company will conduct its business with its clients. In private healthcare, and particularly for consultants, what we are referring to is the patient registration form.
It is always good practice to notify patients via the patient registration form how you charge.
This, in turn, should lead to fewer problems regards fees later on.
In light of CMA report, the practice may also want to consider having the consultant’s biography as part of this document, including any statistics on performance and any work they have had published.
This wording can be printed on the headed paper of the practice and handed to the patient or it can be emailed to new patients when they book an initial consultation.
The important thing is that the patient is made aware of the information before treatment starts in order to avoid any ambiguity.
It is normal that a good number of your patients will have health insurance through their companies, so most of them are unaware of the small print of their own policies, which typically leave them with a shortfall to pay. It is important therefore to make it clear in your patient registration form that it is the patient who is liable for all fees owed.
The patient registration form should also inform the patient if the practice has any other commercial terms, such as charging for consultations that patients do not attend where they have not been cancelled in advance or cancelled at the last minute. Commonly known as DNA’s (Did Not Attend)
Another area which often needs clarity is if the practice charges for items that are typically not covered by the insurance companies. These can be items such as writing prescriptions or consultations carried out by phone.
All of the above need to be incorporated into a patient registration form as well as any other commercial considerations particular to the specific practice – such as charging for home visits.
If the practice has a website, I would also suggest that the wording published on it matches your patient registration form so that the message is consistent across all forms of media.