Integrating widespread digital transformation efforts to offer a more consumer-centric experience at an enterprise scale is challenging. This is especially true in healthcare, given the industry’s complex compliance policies, regulatory requirements and tangled IT infrastructure. In fact, while 1 in 4 providers want their staff to use more digital-first patient engagement channels, only about 15% of providers were making strides on this front according to the 2020 Annual State of the Patient Financial Experience Report.
Just as hospitals and healthcare providers were beginning to prioritize digital communication tools, the Coronavirus forced the accelerated adoption of digital technology, such as telehealth, within a short timeframe. As things begin to settle, these providers have realized the significant gaps that still exist in the patient experience and want to fix them.
The lack of streamlined, digital-first efforts have been laid bare in the last six months, particularly in the billing and payment experience, and can be frustrating for patients. According to the report, 4 in 5 patients end up confused or frustrated when paying for healthcare services and they blame both providers and health insurers, signaling that it’s time for tech adoption that is more patient-centric.
Healthcare providers need to prioritize improved billing processes to create more intuitive experiences for patients. And, with digital-first billing and payments, patients have access to a more efficient process that is user-friendly and ensures bills are paid on a timely basis – benefitting both the hospital and the patient.
As hospitals and healthcare providers look at what areas to prioritize they should consider a few critical points. It’s important that patients have access to upfront pricing so there is transparency when it comes to their healthcare costs. As millions suffer from the financial effects of the pandemic, patients also need access to flexible payment options which can build loyalty over time. And, with user-friendly self-service tools, the stress on both patients and medical staff is reduced as patients feel more empowered about their overall experience.
Help patients make informed healthcare decisions
Many patients face this dilemma: needing to seek medical care without any insight into what the insurance will cover and what they will owe. According to the report, 45% of patients skipped or delayed treatment due to out-of-pocket costs and of those, 43% had their symptoms worsen. The pandemic has placed even more pressure on patients – especially those who are now unemployed – about whether the potential long-term impact of not receiving care will be greater than the short-term cost.
Unfortunately, our current infrastructure doesn’t allow patients to have all the necessary information needed to make an informed decision and therefore, more often than not, they end up postponing treatment that can be detrimental to their lifetime health and end up costing them even more later on as their condition worsens.
Without upfront pricing information before a scheduled visit, patients become flustered especially when they receive multiple bills for a single treatment. With an easy-to-understand, digital estimate shared in advance of the service, the burden on both patients and the hospital are significantly reduced. For low-complexity procedures, these estimates can be automated and sent directly to patients.
Having access to price estimates beforehand helps patients make more informed decisions to move forward with treatment as they can ensure they are able to cover the out-of-pocket costs before proceeding, or are aware of whether they need access to flexible options to ensure the provider is paid over time.
Provide access to flexible payment options
Amid our current reality, patients have taken a huge financial hit and need added flexibility when it comes to healthcare payments. As such, healthcare providers need to ensure patients have greater access to payment options such as payment plans or financing so they can meet their financial obligations. And, with access to more payment options, hospitals and healthcare facilities can also build lifetime loyalty with patients.
Nearly one-third of patients would switch providers if they gained access to more affordable payment options elsewhere and 82% of providers agree that offering payment options is a competitive advantage. With more flexible payment options suited to their budget, patients will be able to pay their bills in a timely manner, reducing the financial load on hospitals for services rendered.
Offering these benefits also brings empathy back into healthcare as patients realize how much providers are committed to ensuring they get the healthcare access they need without weighing the heavy cost of upfront payments.
By utilizing self-service tools, patients can understand each line item in their bill and have the ability to pay it on time without the help of a revenue cycle management (RCM) team member. Twenty-five percent of RCM team members already complain about having too many manual processes when it comes to collecting and processing payments so giving patients access to a self-service portal streamlines the process overall. This portal also ensures that patients pay their bills in a timely manner and are not limited to only paying via phone during regular business hours as almost a third of patients pay outside of business hours.
Self-service tools provide digital channels of communication such as chat or secure messaging so patients can also reach out to RCM teams with any questions or concerns and get a faster response. This is a much simpler process than having to call, go through an automated voice system to get to the right contact, then likely being placed on hold for an extended time. As providers look to go digital, patient-centric self-service portals offer increased transparency and an overall more positive patient experience.
Hospitals and healthcare providers need to implement a stronger digital footprint making patients central in their own experience. From pre-service to post-service, with increased visibility when it comes to estimates, payment options, and access to self-service tools, patients have clarity on their bills and can ensure they meet payment deadlines.
They can also easily navigate the billing process through digital channels and reduce the time RCM teams have to address high volumes of calls. By going digital-first, patients benefit from a more holistic and compassionate experience and may actually start prioritizing their doctors’ visits once again.