From Occam’s Razor to “Keep It Simple Stupid”, the less is more principal has been around in one form or another for centuries. But as tried-and-true as the idea may be, there’s still a tendency (in everything from Hollywood blockbusters to business white papers) to associate bigger with better.
That applies to patient financial communication too. Good statement design should be all about simplicity: informing the patient exactly what they owe and emphasizing the channels they can use to make a payment.
And yet patient statements often tack on inessential elements to the detriment of bill readability and patient understanding. Why? The fallacy of going big: that more words mean more impact. That insider-language implies expertise and know-how. And that the more information you crowd into a statement the less chance there is that something has been left out.
But all that extra data detracts from the point of your patient statements: allowing you to collect payments as fast as possible. Clear, well-written, jargon-free statements use simplicity to present a picture of the patient’s transaction that gives them all the information they need to understand their balance and complete a payment. And not a detail more.
If you’re after simple, well-written, patient friendly billing that drives faster patient payment and fewer calls to your service center, following these six straightforward-but-oh-so-critical guidelines is a very good start:
1. Write all patient statement copy in a conversational tone using an active voice and possessive pronouns. A friendly, empathetic and informal style helps diffuse the tension and anxiety patients might feel when receiving a statement and mimics the way that your care providers and support staff would interact with them in the real-world.
2. Use small, familiar words and short, to-the-point sentences. A sixth-grade writing level is ideal because it covers for all levels of education and forces you to write clearly and without using overly complex prose.
3. Use bold headlines, tables and bulleted-lists to parse and segment key billing details. The use of in-text design elements also creates whitespace that helps control readers’ visual path and enable them to quickly scan for important details.
4. Eliminate technical treatment and patient billing jargon and industry-speak. Statements should be made up of words that have a well-defined meaning to patients. Using hard-to-decipher terminology is just another way to cloud the impact of financial communication.
5. Use simple, clear-language words. Keep things as concise and relatable as possible: if you’re trying to say “immediately” just use that instead of similar, but more unnecessarily complex phrases like “without further delay” or “at your earliest convenience”.
6. Test your copy thoroughly. Your message may seem perfect to you, but what do your patients think? Soliciting feedback from actual patients prior to implementation will help you find any potential comprehension pitfalls.
Using simple, direct, to-the point language on your patients statements is a great way to ensure recipients understand what they’re being asked to pay. Which, in turn, accelerates patient payment and reduces the number of calls that your service staff fields.
Want to learn more proven, best-practice statement design tips and tricks? Click to download our free whitepaper Building a Better Bill: Why Good Statement Design Matters (And How You Can Get It).
What statement copy and design strategies have had the most impact on the speed and effectiveness of your revenue cycle?