Patient Refunds
Aug 21, 2023

How to Handle Patient Refunds: Best Practices for Healthcare Providers

Discover best practices for managing patient refunds.

How to Handle Patient Refunds: Best Practices for Healthcare Providers

What Causes Patient Refunds in Healthcare?

Patient refunds can occur for several reasons, below are some of the most common causes:


Patients may inadvertently overpay for their medical services, prescriptions, or procedures. This can happen due to a misunderstanding of their insurance coverage, inaccurate billing, or changes in treatment plans.

Duplicate Payments

Patients or their insurers might accidentally make duplicate payments for the same service or treatment. This can happen due to errors in the billing process or technical glitches.

Insurance Reimbursement

Sometimes, patients pay upfront for medical services before their insurance processes the claim. If the insurance eventually covers a larger portion of the cost than anticipated, the patient may be entitled to a refund of the excess payment.

Adjustment of Charges

Billing errors, changes in treatment plans, or insurance negotiations can lead to adjustments in charges. If a patient has already paid for a service that was later adjusted, a refund might be necessary.

Cancelled Appointments

If a patient cancels an appointment well in advance but has already paid for the service, the healthcare provider may issue a refund.

Over-Collection of Copayments

Patients might be required to make a copayment at the time of service. If the actual cost of the service is lower than the collected copayment, a refund is typically issued.

Denied Claims

Sometimes, healthcare services that were initially billed to insurance are later denied due to coverage issues. In such cases, patients may have to pay the full amount upfront, but if the claim is eventually resolved, they are entitled to a refund.

Unutilized Services

If a patient has paid for a service in advance but does not end up using it, the healthcare provider may offer a refund for the unutilized portion.

Out-of-Pocket Payments

Patients may make out-of-pocket payments for services that should have been covered by their insurance. In such cases, they can receive a refund if the issue is resolved with the insurance company.

Medical Billing Errors

Billing errors, such as incorrect coding or charges for services not received, can result in patients being billed more than they should be. Once the error is identified and corrected, a refund may be necessary.

The Hidden Cost of Patient Refunds

Besides money going out the door, patient refunds carry with them steep administrative costs. Some reports put the cost to send a check in the mail as high as $20+ with the average being about $7. This is not including the additional cost related to managing unclaimed property procedures in your state.

Best Practices for Issuing Patient Refunds

Verify Overpayment & Refund Fast

Do your due-diligence and verify that patient credit balances are true overpayments and cannot be applied to another encounter, etc. If the patient is in fact due a refund, process it quickly to maximize patient satisfaction.

Communicate With the Patient

When issuing a refund, communicate with the patient via SMS and/or email that a refund is coming their way. This transparency will be a welcomed change for patients who have come to expect as much from their healthcare providers.

Go Digital

The reality is that cutting paper checks is expensive, wasteful, and inefficient. Consumers have changed the way they send and receive money, it’s time healthcare adapt to these new patient expectations.

It's important for healthcare providers to have a clear and transparent process for identifying and issuing patient refunds. Effective communication with patients about their financial transactions and the refund process is also crucial to maintaining trust and patient satisfaction. Migrating to digital patient refunds will enhance the patient experience, reduce cost, and improve compliance. To learn more about digital refunds, visit

Matt Leonhardt
Matt Leonhardt
Director of Marketing
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