Improving the financial dimension of the patient experience wasn’t a lifelong goal for me, and I didn’t start as a result of one single event. In fact, it was something of an accident that I took my career in this direction. But after I found myself on this path, I realized it was a goal to which I would be proud to commit my life. Here’s how it happened.
My Accidental Epiphany About Patient Experiences
I spent 25 years devoted to bringing more respect and convenience to the world of higher education, making it easier for staff as well as students and parents to manage the financial dimension of college. When I was in school, fortunately the fees were much lower than they are today. But I still remember the hours spent in long lines in the gym waiting my turn to pay. Thankfully today, despite the challenge of rising costs, students and parents have much better options for managing tuition and other bills conveniently.
When I first became interested in the financial dimension of healthcare, the owner of a successful high-end orthopedic surgery center had asked if we could help apply the same type of solution for patient financial responsibility. All I could think was: why? Why was this necessary? Why would they need to do it? I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I was on the verge of an epiphany that would propel my career into the healthcare field.
They explained the situation to me in simple terms. When a patient undergoes a complex procedure such as a knee replacement, there are only three or four possible outcomes, and all but one of them are bad. When patients are on edge about a procedure, there’s an increased risk that they will avoid or delay needed care, or be reluctant to pay their bill.
The practice owner believed that providing a superior administrative experience in the lead-up to their procedures would help put patients at ease, setting the tone for more trusting relationships with their care provider. This made a lot of sense to me. If a patient has a smooth experience planning and paying for a procedure, they’ll feel more confident and comfortable overall. They’ll be more inclined to follow through on clinical recommendations and arrive at a positive end result.
From a big-picture perspective, what I realized is that the clinical and financial aspects of care cannot be separated, because patients don’t have two separate experiences; they have one experience that encompasses all aspects of their episode of care.
It’s Time to Rethink Financial Engagement for a Patient-Driven Marketplace
That epiphany happened right at the beginning of my journey into patient financial engagement, but the more I studied and learned about the subject, the more I realized that my orthopedist colleague was right. There was, and still is, a desperate need for more engagement, transparency, and attentiveness in the financial dimension of patients’ experiences.
In today’s increasingly consumer-driven healthcare market, this need is greater than ever, because other consumer-facing services from banking to home entertainment have been reinvented to deliver a more flexible, user-directed experience. Netflix sparked a rapid and revolutionary shift from the old top-down, watch-whatever’s-on-TV model to a flexible streaming service that enabled customers to watch whatever they wanted anytime. Amazon did the same thing for shopping. Now virtually every retailer and media company is following these new industry leaders.
People have started to expect this same level of convenience and flexibility from every service provider. The healthcare industry is not immune to the trend. In fact, with consumer-focused companies like CVS and Amazon entering the market, the pressure to deliver a better experience is escalating faster than anyone could have expected.
Healthcare decisions will never be like ordering a pair of shoes or picking a new show to watch. Fear, stress, and other intense emotions will always be present when life and death are on the line. But I believe this makes it all the more important to remove as much stress as possible from hospitals’ billing and collections practices. Going to the hospital isn’t much fun for anyone, but there’s no reason healthcare providers can’t provide the same standards of respect, consideration, and overall excellence in the customer experience that you would receive at a hotel like the Ritz-Carlton or the Four Seasons.
If Loyale Healthcare can play a role in making this happen, it will have been well worth the journey for me. This may not have been a lifelong pursuit, but I’ve come to realize that it is the opportunity of a lifetime. Even though I won’t live to see the complete achievement of our goal, every day I get to work toward making healthcare less stressful and confusing for countless people and families. It’s an outcome that’s worth fighting for, and I’m proud to say it’s become my personal crusade.