One of my patients came in the other day to receive Botox/Xeomin for her forehead wrinkles right after her ObGyn appointment in the same building. She related a story to me of how terrible the customer service was at the front desk of the Ob’s office and how it’s so much better in our office. Upon hearing this, I immediately knew why the customer service is better in our office.
The difference between insurance vs cash-pay practices
My patient said that the front desk personnel were very passive aggressive and unfriendly. She pointed out how she has good insurance, pays a lot for it and expects to receive good customer service in return. This isn’t unreasonable. Whenever we pay a high price for something, like dinner or a car, we expect the establishment we’re patronizing to treat us well.
But that’s the problem. There’s a disconnect between the patient and the doctor’s office when using health insurance. The patient isn’t paying the doctor directly for those services. There’s an intermediary between the patient and the doctor: the insurance claims process.
I understand most consumers use health insurance when seeing their doctor. I’m not disputing that. But the underlying root problem comes into clear focus when I think about other offices vs my office. In insurance-based offices, the patient pays the insurance company and maybe, just maybe the insurance company will pay the doctor. In a cash pay office, the patient pays the doctor and that’s it.
Why customer service is better in cash pay practices
Look at it this way. If someone comes in and gives my front office staff a $10,000 cash payment for a cosmetic procedure, which is a very typical occurrence in a cosmetic practice, my staff is naturally going to be very nice to that person. I’m not saying you should only treat people nicely if they have money. I’m just saying that if someone gives you a bunch of money, your natural response will be one of appreciation and pleasantness.
Compare that to an insurance-based practice. When the patient gives the front desk their insurance card, it’s not the same as cash. In fact, it’s even worse, Because when the patient hands the insurance card to the office staff, not only is it not cash, but it embodies an evil system. That card represents a process of filing an insurance claim, getting denied, appealing, appealing again, frustration and finally a feeling of defeat when you receive either very little or no reimbursement.
It’s just that simple. That’s the difference between a cash-pay practice vs an insurance-based practice. Sure the front office staff should be trained to be friendly no matter what type of office they’re in. But the fact is that insurance processing sucks the energy and youth out of anyone that is touched by its scourge. This leads to a poor attitude and subsequently poor customer service.