Best practice for getting informed financial consent

I was reading the June quarter ASA newsletter, and noticed that the Economics Advisory Committee continues to comment on informed financial consent (IFC). A continued flow of patient comments on fees and IFC illustrated that many patients still have a perception that services provided did not warrant the fee charged.

As an anaesthetist, your time with a patient is limited (well the time they are awake with you is limited!) so you are more challenged than your other medical colleagues when it comes to obtaining IFC. What are you doing to ensure you are correctly and regularly obtaining IFC and reducing your risk of being short paid by patients later on?

As we deal with IFC on behalf of our clients on a day-to-day basis, we wholeheartedly support the ASA’s recommendation to take control of the issue rather than having it imposed on the anaesthetic community by external force.

Getting written financial consent can be very difficult. Therefore, you need to build a process to:

    • Fully explain your role as their anaesthetist before the procedure (you do more than just send them to sleep!);
    • Ensure your patients are receiving ample information on the services you are providing before their surgery;
    • Explain how your fee is determined within the rules of your health fund and how it may ensure their rebates are  maximised;
    • Get them to agree on the costs of these services and, in as many cases as possible, organise for prepayment; and
    • Follow up patients who have not paid their bills.

I understand that this is particularly challenging when you agree to do a list at short notice.

It is also important to think about the characteristics of your patients – in our experience those going for certain elective surgeries may understand and accept additional costs and will pay upfront.

Some doctors manage these issues by having someone do it for them, while others simply don’t charge the gap or accept lists that they cannot appropriately organise.

I’d be interested in hearing how you are managing to combat these challenges within your practice, so please leave a comment in the box below.

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