Increased transparency in healthcare is transforming ideas about patient engagement. As a result, patients are taking on the role of healthcare consumers. When it comes to patient financial engagement, providers need clear objectives for communicating with patients during a potentially vulnerable time in their lives. For best outcomes, communication is the key.
Companies of all stripes have learned the benefits of focusing on their customers’ needs. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wanted his company to have a “customer obsession” rather than a “competition obsession.” It’s a bottom-line-driven philosophy that expects profits to grow by providing outstanding customer service.
Healthcare isn’t like most other businesses. Lives are literally on the line every day at hospitals and clinics around the world. However, patient financial engagement in healthcare is shifting to see patients as more than passive participants in their own care. Whether by googling their symptoms or quizzing doctors and nurses, patients want to be informed.
In short, they want to know their options.
When the No Surprises Act went into effect in January of this year, it was a response to patients’ needs for financial transparency. Again, it comes down to providing patients with clear financial options.
Patient Financial Experience
The traditional billing process has an element of chaos in the mix:
- For patients, one illness can result in numerous bills from physicians, hospitals, lab services, imaging, and more.
- For office staff, keeping up with payments and past-due notices distracts from other priorities.
Leaders in patient payment platforms understand that a complete patient financial engagement process starts before services are provided and continues until the last bill is paid. Payment platforms are there at every step along the way and must be reliable at all times, providing options for patients as well as for your staff.
While there are many choices in payment platforms, having a patient financial engagement platform that integrates seamlessly with any EMR system simplifies the billing process for office staff while also injecting flexibility that meets patients where they are.
Providers can improve communication with patients by offering:
- Pre-service payments: A platform that integrates with any estimation tool you use within minutes and offers seamless reconciliation in real time.
- Contactless payments: In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers of all sorts have become more comfortable with making “hands-free” payments.
- Digital engagement: Paper bills probably won’t disappear any time soon, but the transition is well on its way.
When patients visit hospitals or clinics, they present with different symptoms and illnesses. The medical staff treats each patient according to individual needs.
A robust payment platform dedicated to patient engagement does the same for the specific financial needs of consumers.
This is not a case of freedom for freedom’s sake. It’s a reaction to healthcare trends. The inaugural Healthcare Payment Experience Report, a PYMNTS and Rectangle Health collaboration, was conducted in the wake of the COVID pandemic. According to the report, “22 percent of ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ loyal patients (said) they’d drop a preferred physician or practice because tools such as digital form completion, payment reminders, and appointment reminders aren’t offered.”
Any successful business needs to be responsive to its customers’ needs. It’s especially true for organizations dedicated to their customers’ well-being.
Early Start: Pre-Service Estimates
The No Surprises Act requires that healthcare providers give a “good faith estimate” of costs before a service or treatment is offered. Some might see the change as a bureaucratic hassle, and it’s probably caused more than a few headaches over the past few months.
However, in reality, it’s a way for hospitals and clinics to provide superior patient financial engagement while also getting cash in the door sooner than ever before.
A system that integrates with all estimation tools and allows healthcare providers to give pre-service estimates can best serve patients and help providers collect faster. Patients can then make payments before they ever set foot into an exam room.
In addition, a patient financial engagement platform that makes those payments available to accounts receivable within minutes means that reconciliation is quick and seamless.
According to a survey of providers, it can take three months for a patient to pay the full balance of a healthcare bill. However, research shows patients are three times more likely to handle co-pays and deductibles when presented with bills during pre-service compared to post-service. A quick start to patient financial engagement can make a big improvement in your organization’s revenue stream.
A pre-service estimate also allows patients to understand their financial obligations from the start, so they can consider a variety of affordability options like:
- payment plans
- non-recourse loans
Hands-Free Payment Processing
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the way people do business all over the world. There’s been a shift to contactless payments. As patient financial engagement moves toward touch-free options, healthcare organizations need the right technology in place to deal with the changes.
Some patients will always rely on cash and check payments, so it is important to support multiple contactless and convenient payment options, including:
- text to pay
- text to collect
- card on file
- digital wallets
Offering special options for healthcare employees is another way to expand the benefits of a strong patient financial engagement platform. Healthcare organizations can expect a percentage of their staff members to eventually become customers where employees can pay copays and deductibles from their paychecks and set up payroll deductions by swiping their ID badges or tapping in their ID numbers.
Secure at Home
Another side effect of the pandemic is an increase in the number of employees working from home. That’s true for a variety of businesses, but there are special risks when it comes to healthcare organizations that are legally obligated to make sure patient data is handled securely.
It’s important that a patient financial engagement platform maintains PCI and HIPAA compliance and provides proper virus protection and secure VPN connections for company laptops.
It could be argued that people get more information from smartphones than from any other source. If that’s not exactly true now, give it a few years for the stragglers to catch up.
Embracing technology is a patient-centered approach that builds loyalty and satisfaction. In order to give smooth patient financial engagement to modern customers, it’s important to have a platform that allows you to communicate digitally.
Sending E-Statements straight to a patient’s phone or email account is another valuable tool in communicating clearly with patients regarding their balances. Digital communications include:
- payment due dates
- past-due notices
These notifications can be automated, which frees up staff members to focus on other duties.
In addition, patients can decide how they receive communication. That gives them more control, making them more comfortable with the billing process.
Customer Obsession in Healthcare
Patient financial engagement in healthcare is changing, and that requires a robust healthcare payment technology that serves the consumers’ needs while also improving your revenue stream.
For the past 20 years, HealthPay24 has been adapting to the challenges that affect our customers. We’re always looking for new ways to simplify patient financial engagement for the clients we serve as well as for the patients they serve.
If you need help developing and implementing your ‘customer obsession,’ visit us at HealthPay24.com to see how our patient payment platform can work for you.