High-deductible health plans and rising out-of-pocket costs have led to unprecedented increases in patient payment responsibility. According to a recent survey, out-of-pocket costs increased an average of 14% for inpatient services and 12% for outpatient services between 2017 and 2018 alone.
Because patients have more skin in the game, they want to be treated more like consumers of healthcare services, and their expectations are aligning with the experiences they have in other industries.
As a result, patient financial experience now plays a significant role in the healthcare journey. This change hasn’t gone unnoticed, as healthcare organizations shift their priorities to include delivering a better patient financial experience.
Of course, healthcare is unique from other industries. The need to provide compassionate care seems to conflict with the “business side” of billing and collecting payments for services provided. But this doesn’t have to be the case.
By understanding and addressing patients’ concerns surrounding payment responsibility, it is possible to create a positive, consumer-friendly, end-to-end experience that reflects your values as a compassionate provider of healthcare.
Surprises can be exciting … except when it comes to medical bills. Unexpected medical bills are a major source of stress for Americans. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that two out of three Americans worry about being able to afford an unexpected medical bill.
Patients need a full understanding of what lies ahead for them financially. By knowing what to expect, they can make knowledgeable decisions about their care. Transparency is key to providing a positive, less stressful experience. That means being upfront about how much the patient will be responsible for paying, when billing will occur, how they can pay, when it will be due, and who will be billing them. Taking the time to verify eligibility at this point is key to being accurate about the payment information you share with the patient.
Medical billing is notoriously complex. Pair that with an increasing financial burden, it’s no surprise that complicated billing can create a negative payment experience for the patient.
Here are several ways to create a consumer-friendly experience through simple billing practices:
- Break down patient costs using simple language that is easier to understand – skip complex jargon and acronyms
- Offer access to an online payment portal with a user-friendly interface that features messaging and payment reminders
- Provide access to a financial counselor to assist patients with questions about billing
- Educate front staff on how to respond appropriately to billing questions
Patient expectations around healthcare payments are largely shaped by their experiences in other consumer-facing industries, such as retail and banking. Today’s consumers expect convenience, ease-of-use, and options.
By offering patients more payment options to fit their individual needs, you are improving access to care and demonstrating that you prioritize their care over their money. You’re giving them the peace of mind that you will work with them to ensure they receive the care they need. An added bonus: the more payment options you offer patients, the greater the chances the bills will get paid.
Ways to offer more payment choice and convenience to patients include:
- Offering tailored payment plans that can be modified, as needed
- Accommodating payments through multiple channels – mobile, online, phone, via a portal
- Accepting multiple payment methods and the ability to manage a digital wallet
- Providing 24/7 access to a payment platform that gives visibility into payment history and accepts one-time or recurring payments
Let Patients Know They’re Valued
The financial experience is a fundamental part of a patient’s healthcare journey. Providing compassionate, patient-centered care should not only involve the prevention and treatment of medical conditions, but also the prevention and treatment of a financial burden. As such, it’s important to let patients know they are valued as patients and consumers.
By working with them on billing and payments, asking for feedback (and acting on it!), adopting consumer-oriented payment practices, respecting their privacy, and communicating with them in an open and honest manner, your actions will ensure patients that you value them. And what better way to deliver a positive patient financial experience!
Healthcare systems and providers throughout the United States use HealthPay24’s Patient Self-Service platform to offer consumers a positive payment experience throughout the patient financial journey. Click here to learn more!