The task of getting patients more engaged in their health care already is keeping hospital managers plenty busy, but industry officials say hospitals also should be paying attention to patient financial engagement.

Patients are taking on a greater share of the financial responsibility for their health care as a result of both the Affordable Care Act and because of changes in private health insurance coverage, says Joseph Fifer, president and CEO of the Healthcare Financial Management Association. The ACA's marketplace health insurance plans often carry high deductibles or co-payments, while high-deductible plans also are becoming more common in the private market, necessitating better communication between providers and patients, he says.

To assist with that, HFMA last year unveiled guidelines for hospitals to follow regarding their financial communication with patients, and it plans to launch a voluntary financial communications skills recognition program for hospitals in the first quarter of this year. Using a process of self-evaluation created by HFMA, interested hospitals could choose to be recognized as a user of best practices in financial communications.

HFMA also partnered with the credit professionals group ACA International to lead a task force that produced a set of best practices for medical-debt collection that in part are designed to improve communication with patients.

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