Anyone can come up with at least one thing that wakes them up in the middle of the night. Barking dogs, thunderstorms, nightmares and so on.
I recently had an unusual wake-up call at 5:15 a.m. when I opened my eyes to a sudden painful scrunching in my left chest area. Not wanting to disturb the peaceful slumber of the two cats and husband beside me, I told myself to breathe calmly, deeply, and (hopefully) continuously. I soon felt a mighty thump in my chest, a release of the squeezing feeling and a burst of warmth flowing to the ends of my toes and fingertips.
So I rested there for about an hour, telling myself to relax relax relax, there was nothing to be concerned about, no need to elbow my husband or nudge the drooling cats off the side of the bed. After all, it was highly unlikely that I was having a heart attack of any type because – well – because I don’t have heart attacks. Then I started ticking off the facts of my basic profile:
That’s five out of five. What would an intelligent person do at this point of realization?
I decided to ignore all of the medical information about heart attack symptoms that I know very well because I’m a healthcare marketer so it’s my job to tell people to get immediate medical assistance if there’s even a miniscule chance that they’re having a heart attack. I fell into the high percentage pool of people who think that it would be terribly embarrassing to call 911 or be driven to the ER, only to discover that the problem was a panic attack or heartburn. After all, what could be worse: dying of a heart attack or having a doctor tell you that you’re not having a heart attack? Ummm …
Anna Gunderson PA-C chastised me gently but thoroughly during my clinic appointment at 10am that morning, reminded me that “time is muscle” and that I should have come to the ER via driver or ambulance, and by the way, shouldn’t I know better?
At the end of the day, my lab tests, an EKG and chest X-ray indicated that I hadn’t suffered a cardiac event. My rheumatologist suspected pericarditis brought on by systemic lupus. While I felt somewhat relieved, I was also smacked with the reality that I could have a heart attack and that in fact, many of my friends and acquaintances could have a heart attack at any moment and need to have their lives saved by the very people with whom I work.
I’m making a donation today to our hospital foundation’s campaign to raise funds to buy a Zoll defibrillator unit for our ambulance and a cardiopulmonary DASH monitor for our E.R. I discovered that last year alone, our current E.R. DASH monitor system assisted 126 people in cardiac distress and almost 500 people with respiratory ailments.
Please consider supporting this campaign for acquiring this essential equipment and who knows? It just might save your life.
When it comes to making improvements in our billing process, our most valuable resources are our patients and their families. Concerns, complaints and suggestions from our patients have led to changes throughout our entire business cycle including changes in our processes, staff training, and software changes. We get patient complaints for less than one percent of all bills we send out, but we know that doesn’t help if you are the one with a billing issue.
If at any time you or someone you know has a question about their Teton Valley Health Care bill, please be sure to give us a call or send an email or letter requesting assistance. While it may feel therapeutic to turn to your neighbors or Facebook friends, we appreciate direct communication otherwise we won’t know about the problem and can’t fix or answer the concern.
Here’s an overview of how our billing cycle works, along with definitions of different billing terms.
When we send the first statement after a patient visit, it’s a detailed list of services. Every statement thereafter is a summary of the balance remaining, not a detailed list. We believe this provides patients with necessary data, but it doesn’t overwhelm patients by repeating the same details multiple times. If you ever need a detail for any of your visits, we’re happy to provide that for you along with any assistance in understanding the details.
We don’t send a statement for a service until the claim has been processed by the patient’s insurance. This helps to ensure that a patient is only billed for the amount they owe TVHC and that any insurance issues (eligibility, deductibles, and coverage terms) are dealt with before we ask you for payment. We do everything we can to provide a correct claim to your insurer immediately after the care is rendered. We want to see the insurer quickly and correctly process the claim as much as the patient does. If we’ve received incorrect billing information (this is why we always ask for your insurance information when you check in), if the insurance doesn’t process the claim correctly, if the insurance company needs additional information such as accident verification data, or if there are any other problems with the claim, it can take several months for the insurer to process and pay for the claim.
You’ll know when your insurance has processed your claim when you receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) that shows what you may still owe after your insurance has paid for any covered services. If you disagree with your EOB, you should contact your insurance provider for clarification. Most claims (bills) are sent to the insurance company and processed by the insurance company within 3 weeks of the date of service, so you should expect a TVHC bill 3-4 weeks after your visit.
Once the patient’s claim is processed by the insurer, or if the patient is uninsured, we send out the first statement with a list outlining the provided services. We then call each guarantor (the person listed as responsible for payment) within two weeks of that first statement to ensure that the statement was received, that it’s correct, and to see if there are any questions regarding the statement. This is not a “collections call”; it’s a courtesy call from our billing office offering to help you with any questions about your bill. If the statement is received and correct, we offer to accept payment immediately (we do accept most major credit cards).
We continue to reach out to the guarantor by phone and in writing (at least monthly) until the balance is paid or a payment plan is established. We work with patients who are unable to pay their bill by offering payment plans, assistance in applying for insurance, or through our financial assistance program. However, if a patient or guarantor doesn’t respond to our letters or calls, or fails to make necessary payment, we refer the person to a collection agency after 120 days. This is an action of last resort.
In addition to your hospital or clinic statement, you may also receive statements from other providers such as radiologists and pathologists. Multiple statements and potentially multiple explanations of benefits from insurance companies can complicate the process.
We want our patients and their families to be as satisfied as possible with our care and we’re available to help you navigate the statements, instructions and explanations that you may receive. We want to hear from you.
As a resident of Teton Valley and as the CEO of Teton Valley Health Care, I am concerned about how TVHC is perceived. If people in our community have a poor perception of our services, prices, or staff, they won’t come to us for their care. I understand that how we treat our patients determines how you (and the people you talk to) feel about the hospital. Like any service organization, if we don’t meet or exceed your expectations, you won’t be happy. Teton Valley Hospital is a great little community hospital with a lot to offer. Our infection rates are always low (last year it was 0% …) and our clinical quality is high. Our patient satisfaction scores are consistently above 94% for both hospital and clinic services. We have very good equipment and staff. We have a 7×24 emergency room, clinic hours 7 days a week, and we employ over 150 people. In terms of the delivery of medical care and County economic impact, our 75 years of existence have been a crucial asset for Teton Valley.
I know that in the past we had billing issues and operational missteps. I know a number of people in the community were faced with those issues and because of their poor experience with TVHC they’ve chosen not to use our services. The good news is that we have made significant improvements in billing and other processes. The bad news is that many people don’t know that we’ve made clear, consistent improvements, and we believe we’re able to offer a better all-around patient experience.
It takes time to earn and maintain trust, especially after trust has been broken. If you avoid using our hospital or clinics because of a past experience or what you’ve heard second-hand, please give us the opportunity to change your mind. We’re still not perfect, but we are a lot better.
This year, TVHC is going to focus even more on you, the patient, and your family. You’ll see the following changes:
We are training all staff to improve the customer experience. Just like 5-star hotels train their staff to make the customer experience better, we are training all of our staff to better serve you and understand your personal needs. If one of our staff does not meet your needs, please let me know.
We’re improving the look and feel of patient rooms and exam areas such as our blood draw room, clinic admissions, and medical imaging suites. We are replacing our X-ray/fluoroscope with up-to-date equipment and we’re redesigning the X-ray room. The lab room is now complete. Look for the new X-ray equipment and redesigned room in May, and the Driggs clinic changes in June.
We will be adjusting our prices for imaging (e.g., X-ray, cat scans) services to make them more competitive. Look for announcements this summer.
We are investigating new evening clinic hours to accommodate everyone who works during the day.
Teton Valley Health Care is celebrating its 75th anniversary of service this year. We were built by a determined, conscientious community through much self-sacrifice and commitment, and we completed our first year of patient care in 1939. We’ve been through a lot of change together.
Like you, we have to anticipate changing times and that often includes making changes in course and improving how we perform. If you haven’t been here for a while, please consider visiting with us and let me know what you think of us now.