Medenta’s Ruth Findlay looks at the right way to talk with patients about patient finance….
When it comes to talking about patient finance, it can be quite daunting for members of the practice team to interpret the correct financial conduct rules with regard to what you can and cannot say.
The various rules do explain that there are certain things that you have to say and certain things you need to avoid, however, there is no need to feel overawed or worried about having these conversations and getting everything right. One of the overall messages that comes out of the rules is about presenting patients with all the correct information, rather than an opinion on what you might think the best option would be.
Anyway, if you are a bit apprehensive about having these conversations, I’ve put together some guidance to help you out.
A non-compliant conversation.
Treatment co-ordinator: ‘So, if you look here, you’ll see that over two years you’d pay £366.45, and over the three years it would be £549.04. What do you think of these?’
Patient: ‘The 24-month option does sound good. I had a rough budget in my head of about £200 a month, so it’s not far off. What would I actually need to do if I wanted to go for that?’
TCO: ‘Well, we can set that one up for you pretty easily, but are you absolutely sure that you want to do that one and not one of the interest-free options? Look at all that interest that you’re going to end up repaying with that option.’
Patient: ‘It’s not ideal, but I know I can afford that amount each month. So that’s why I liked it.’
TCO: ‘Well, it’s entirely up to you, but I wouldn’t be paying all of that on top because I always think the interest-free options are so much better as you’re only paying back the cost of your treatment.’
Why this is non-compliant.
Here, the TCO has fallen into a trap of giving guidance and passing an opinion on to the patient about the costs, and this is a ‘no’ as far as Financial Conduct Authority guidance is concerned.
What the TCO is there to do is present all the information and that’s it. Anything beyond that, such as offering an opinion, will breach conversation rules, so that’s a good point to note.
A compliant conversation.
TCO: ‘So we’ve been through all of the options. What would you like to do today?’
Patient: ‘They sound great! Could you send me an email showing all options as I’d like to have a quick chat with my partner, if that’s okay.’
TCO: ‘That’s absolutely fine. It’s perfectly understandable. You’ve got to be completely comfortable from all perspectives when it comes to the treatment. I’ll create the quotation from the system and get it emailed across to you so you’ll be able to have a think about the options in your own time. Now, I can email it out to you or I can print it off. Which would you rather?’
Patient: ‘Could you email it? I will forget otherwise.’
TCO: ‘Yes, not a problem at all. Let’s just double check that we’ve got the right email address for you here.’
Patient: *Checks email* ‘Yes, that’s correct.’
TCO: ‘If that’s all right, I’ll make a note in my diary to give you a call in a week’s time if I haven’t heard from you. Is that okay?’
Patient: ‘It is, yes. I will try and give you a call tomorrow, but give me a nudge if I forget.’
TCO: ‘Just before you do go, if I could just ask you to sign this. This is a copy of your treatment plan. The signature is to say that you understand the options that we discussed, that you’re aware of the risks involved with the treatment and what the outcomes are that we’re expecting from the treatment. If you are happy to sign it and then you did decide that you want to go ahead, the next step we can do over the phone. So it will save you having to come back in to the practice.’
Patient: ‘Yeah, of course, that all sounds easy. Thanks.’
TCO: ‘Ok, great! We can pick up the rest over the phone. I’ll send the details out to you later on today. If you do decide to go ahead, we’d have a couple of last little bits to take care of, and then we’d be looking to get your treatment started once a 14-day right to withdraw period has elapsed.’
Why this is compliant.
In this second scenario, the TCO has done everything correctly. All the information has been presented and they have left it down to the patient to make the decision.
Also, they haven’t just let the patient go, they’ve understood that it’s an important decision to make and have given time for the patient to think about it.
They arranged a follow up call and have left the conversation open and that is a really good process to follow.
So, I hope these examples have helped show what you can and can’t say when it comes to the Financial Conduct Authority guidelines. As I have explained earlier in my piece, it isn’t an issue to get overwhelmed about at all. If you use this as a guide on what to say, then you really shouldn’t go wrong.