Home Care: Strategies for improving billing accuracy and reducing client complaints

29 April 2024

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission recently released its inaugural ‘Complaints About Aged Care Services’ report. The report identified 4,015 complaints made in relation to home care services between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2023. Our analysis indicates a staggering 25% of these complaints related to issues with home care client fees and charges, and fell into two categories:

1. Fees and charges (648 complaints)

2. Communication about fees and charges (364 complaints)

Many home care clients have experienced difficulties with accurate billing and dissemination of fees and charges information. This back-of-house process can create more than its fair share of headaches. We also acknowledge the complexity of current fee practices, noting the recommendations in the Aged Care Taskforce Report to make aged care fees fairer, simpler and more transparent. We look forward to more guidance on this from the Federal Government in coming months.

There are a number of systems and strategies that providers can employ to minimise the risk of a fee-based complaint being made to the Commission. Below, we share six tried and tested strategies to better manage client expectations and enhance billing efforts.

1. A single source of truth for billing data

Providers should ensure there is a single source of truth for customer and billing data. This requires properly integrated systems or ideally, one system with no integrations required. Having a single or integrated system for billing data helps to prevent confusion and errors, and also reduces the need for time-consuming reconciliations between different systems. This ensures that all staff members are working with the same accurate information and minimises the risk of incorrect billing or miscommunication.

2. Use technology to support robust checks and balances

Systems, rather than people controls, should include checks and balances to ensure client or service data is entered correctly. These checks and balances may include:

  • data tests to prevent client duplications;

  • prescribed fields to ensure information is correct (e.g. clients have a first and last name, mobile numbers are 10 digits long); and

  • mandatory fields to ensure all essential information has been captured before finalising a client or a service in the system.

Implementing system controls helps to maintain data integrity. By verifying client information and ensuring completeness and accuracy before finalising records, providers can avoid issues such as duplicate entries, missing or incorrect billing information.

3. Leverage automation where possible

Automation streamlines the billing process and reduces the potential for human error. By implementing bots or other automated tools to match expenses with clients, providers can improve efficiencies and accuracy in billing procedures. When using automation tools however, it is important to implement a quality control process to check the accuracy of the bot overtime.

4. Facilitate effective communication from front line staff

Front line staff should have appropriate access to up-to-date customer account information from the billing system. This allows staff to clearly communicate with clients about their fees, charges and any outstanding accounts. As the first point of call for many client enquiries, front line staff members should also undergo effective communications training to prevent misunderstandings and foster positive client interactions.

5. Regular communication with clients

Providers should ensure they have a form of regular communication to keep clients up to date with the latest developments, including any changes to fees and charges. There are a range of communication mediums available, including monthly newsletters, client forums, and push notifications from a mobile app.

6. Support from the finance team

Collaboration between operations and finance teams is important for ensuring accurate billing processes. The finance team can provide an additional level of oversight, helping to identify and resolve potential billing errors early on and reducing the likelihood of future complaints from clients.

A well-managed billing process can become a point of difference for a provider and enhance their reputation with clients and other stakeholders. By prioritising transparency, communication, and accuracy in billing processes, home care providers can minimise their administrative burden, reduce the risk of complaints related to fees and charges, and promote greater client satisfaction and trust.