The financial dimension of the patient experience is extremely important. Today’s patients know they’re responsible for a significant share of their medical costs, and they want to be able to make informed decisions about their own healthcare. However, providers need to engage patients on financial issues earlier and more effectively to meet the rising expectations of savvy digital consumers.
Unfortunately, many hospitals lose the goodwill created by a positive clinical experience when the patient is confronted with a stream of unexpectedly large bills after a procedure. It’s critical for providers to prevent this situation by engaging the patient early, making financial information readily available, and above all, making it easy for the patient to pay their bill.
In this article, we’ll look at five ways that providers can improve the patient financial experience and maximize the likelihood of payment.
1. Engage the Patient Pre-Procedure
A lack of pre-procedure financial engagement is a major driver of patient dissatisfaction and lost or delayed revenue. Patients are aware of their growing financial responsibility, but without transparent information about costs and payment options, they’re more likely to delay or abandon care, or fail to meet their obligations after the fact.
Engaging patients in the financial planning process at the beginning helps avoid unpleasant post-procedure billing issues—which is important for both parties. Obviously, patients don’t want to face unexpected bills when they’re recovering from a hospitalization or outpatient procedure. And on the provider side, it’s essential to identify potential problems that could lead to revenue loss before incurring the costs of a clinical procedure.
At Loyale, we’ve built proactive financial engagement and planning into our solution by enabling integration with hospital registration and scheduling systems. By looking ahead to upcoming procedures instead of looking back at clinical work that’s already completed, you can work with patients and provide guidance to help them meet their personal financial responsibility—rather than scrambling to squeeze payment out of recovering patients who aren’t prepared to pay.
2. Provide Easy Access with a Patient Portal
The type of engagement we’re discussing is most effective when enabled by technology, because patients don’t want to receive a big stack of paperwork or a dozen different letters from their provider. People increasingly expect to have easy online access to billing information for all of the services they use, including their healthcare providers. For these reasons, having a high-performance patient portal is essential in today’s consumer-driven healthcare market.
It’s important to note that online portals aren’t just in demand by millennials: gen Xers and baby boomers are very savvy with mobile devices and the internet. All patients—regardless of age or other demographic factors—want to be able to understand and plan for the costs of their care, and make payments without disrupting their daily life.
When you make it as easy as possible for patients to explore financing options and manage their medical bills, they are that much more likely to make payments in a timely manner. By providing an easy-to-use online portal, you enable patients to understand their financial responsibility upfront, determine the best payment plan for their budget, and actually make payments after they’ve received care. This approach reduces the risk of misunderstandings or surprises that would negatively affect the patient experience.
3. Use Portfolio Segmentation to Manage Patient Financial Challenges
The vast majority of patients don’t want to rack up bills that they can’t pay. In general, people want to be responsible and meet their obligations. The trouble starts when patients are unable to afford vital procedures or unwilling to pay their bill due to frustration with the billing process.
At Loyale, we are disciples of a portfolio management approach to patient responsibility. In practice, this means we believe hospitals should:
- Use predictive analytics to determine which patients are potentially unable and/or unwilling to pay
- Engage patients with targeted communications based on their propensity to pay
- Focus collections efforts on those who are most likely to pay
By identifying the main barrier to payment for each patient, you can deploy targeted collections strategies. We know that standardized mass mailings and telephone calls have limited effectiveness. If a patient isn’t paying their bill, they might need more than a reminder of what they owe. For instance, they might need information about payment plans or financing options that will work for their budget. Or they might need more detailed information to understand the amount of their bill.
The point is that patients want a billing process that matches the level of individualized care they received during the clinical encounter. Meeting this expectation requires providers to break down their patient population into different segments based on ability and willingness to pay, so that they can deploy effective communications and billing procedures.
4. Engage Patients Who Are Unwilling or Unable to Pay
When patients are unable or unwilling to meet their personal financial obligations, communication is critical. For example, if a patient is concerned about their ability to afford care, the best strategy is to proactively engage the patient in financial planning so you can find solutions that work with their budget.
On the other hand, when a patient can afford to pay their bills but isn’t willing to do so, the problem often stems from dissatisfaction with the billing process. Dissatisfied patients can take a long time to pay their bill in full, which not only delays revenue, but also typically increases the cost to the collect.
To resolve the situation and receive payment, you may need to clarify a misunderstanding about the size of a bill, or explain to the patient why they’re responsible for specific costs. Ideally these issues would be explained upfront, but even after a procedure, it is still important to treat patients with the personal touch they expect from a care provider. This helps maintain a positive relationship, increases the likelihood of payment, and encourages the patient to return again in the future.
5. Integrate All of the Above with a Powerful Patient Financial Engagement Platform
A seamless financial process is essential for a positive overall patient experience. Even if a patient is willing and able to pay, a confusing or restrictive financial experience can cause patients to neglect their financial responsibility.
The expectation today is that everything should be as easy to do as making a purchase on Amazon or watching a show on Netflix. Of course, delivering effective healthcare will always be more complicated than these consumer services, but the financial aspects of care can be simplified dramatically with the strategies we discussed above (and the right technology at the heart of your system).
Loyale started out with the sole mission of making it easier for patients to pay for their care. We’ve expanded on that original goal by building out a comprehensive patient financial engagement platform—and easy payment is still at the core of it all.
Fully integrated patient financial engagement ensures that patients have a seamless experience from their initial registration through their final bill. They won’t get lost or forgotten and no one has to be confused about how much they owe or how they can pay.
With Loyale, hospitals can leverage segmentation, targeted communications, and an accessible patient portal to maximize the likelihood that each patient will meet their financial responsibility in full. Equally importantly, we provide these capabilities in a way that respects the needs and preferences of today’s patients, so they feel the respect and personalized attention necessary to develop strong, loyal patient-provider relationships.