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A Prescription for Clearer
Hospital Bills

Bad billing leads to bad debt

The Cleveland Clinic was renowned for its success as a clinical and academic medical center, but its patient communications weren't faring as well. Among the worst cases were complicated hospital bills that confused and frustrated patients, leading to delayed payments and uncollectible debts.

The Clinic needed to simplify and redesign billing statements to give their patients clear, comprehensive views of their accounts.

Making sense of medical costs

Siegel+Gale discovered that confusion stemmed from the fact that bills did not present charges with a description or sequence that matched how services were delivered to the patient. Instead, hospital charges, physician fees and insurance payments were all applied at seemingly random intervals, causing patients' monthly account balances to fluctuate wildly.

To bring order to this chaos, we created two new documents. The first, a Billing Notice that is sent only once, explains the upcoming billing process, confirms insurance coverage and informs patients that they will receive monthly Billing Statements. Then, the Billing Statement itself details charges as they're entered into the billing system, insurance payments as claims are processed and payments due for any charges not covered by insurance. Clearly labeled categories for "What you owe now" and "What you may owe later" explain which charges are still pending with the insurance company and help patients anticipate their future bills.

Better bills give a big boost to the bottom line

The response from patients was overwhelmingly positive, as was the impact on the Cleveland Clinic's bottom line. Since patients understood their bills better, they made on-time payments more often. An 80% increase in patient payments translated into $1 million in additional revenue per month. Paper and printing costs also dropped, due to a decrease in average bill length. Now, only 10% of bills are four pages or longer, down from 50%.

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