In a recent blog, we looked at how the playing field in healthcare is changing—and becoming more competitive. As more new players and merger-driven super-competitors enter the market, incumbent healthcare providers are facing unprecedented pressure on their market share.
To defend your patient base against these disruptors, you need to provide a positive experience from the patient’s first phone call to their final follow-up visit. But this doesn’t just mean a positive clinical experience. Today, the financial dimension of healthcare has an increasingly large impact on patient satisfaction and loyalty.
The most obvious reason for this is that patients themselves are responsible for an increasingly large share of their medical bills. However, it would be a mistake to think that only the patient’s portion of revenue is at risk. Patients actually drive all healthcare spending, because if they go to another provider, they take their insurance card—and 100% of payments from commercial or government payers—out the door with them.
In recognition of this fact, providers need to engage patients in financial planning earlier and more effectively to defend their market share and revenue.
The Financial Dimension of Care Has a Huge Impact on Patient Satisfaction
Unfortunately, the goodwill built up from a positive clinical experience is quickly lost when a patient has a negative financial experience. You can deliver the best care a patient has ever received, but if they feel like they are being treated unfairly or squeezed to pay unaffordable bills, they will no longer look at your organization the same way.
There are multiple reasons why a patient can have a negative financial experience even after a positive clinical outcome. A few common examples include:
- Feeling overwhelmed by unexpected costs or the total amount due
- Frustration or confusion caused by receiving multiple bills
- Lack of payment options that work for their budget
If the patient hasn’t been sufficiently engaged in financial planning until this point, the burden of payment often becomes an intractable, overwhelming problem for the patient. They believe that they can’t possibly meet their obligations, so they become angry and standoffish, or stop responding to the hospital’s communications altogether.
Patients Expect Transparency and Personalized Payment Options
In the era of Netflix and AirBnB, consumers have become accustomed to having many options and being able to select the plan that works for their budgets. People take these expectations into their encounters with healthcare providers. If you aren’t able to work with them on their terms, they’ll be more likely to end up going to a retail-style clinic or another hospital that has better adapted to the changing marketplace.
Concerns about the cost of care have become a major driver of patient behavior. In addition to losing patients to competitors, you also have to worry about patients delaying or abandoning care. A worst-case scenario for a hospital often occurs when the organization has started incurring the costs of planning or implementing a treatment plan, only to have the patient walk away because they’re overwhelmed by the cost.
The risk of care abandonment is another reason why transparency and proactive financial planning are essential. Patients are more likely to follow through when they have time to understand their personal responsibility, consult with their insurer, and work out a payment plan. Going through this process also helps ensure that patients will be prepared to fulfill their obligations in a timely manner.
Providers Can Turn This Challenge into an Opportunity
Ensuring that patients can meet their financial responsibility is important, but it shouldn’t be your only goal. You should be striving to turn each patient into a net promoter: someone who actively advocates for your organization by returning in the future and recommending you to family, friends, and coworkers. When patient populations give your organization a high net-promoter score, you can not only defend, but also grow your market share.
To reach this goal, you need to provide a financial experience that matches the high level of quality you deliver on the clinical side. You need to be proactive in engaging patients on financial issues and finding payment options that work for everyone. This is especially true of the rising millennial generation, which will be responsible for making the majority of all healthcare decisions within just a few years.
Loyale’s approach to this challenge is focused on leveraging technology to improve patient financial engagement and meet expectations around personalization, transparency, and proactive planning. Our solution includes both tools for the hospital revenue department and patient-facing features such as our affordability workbench.
Our system helps evaluate each patient’s ability and willingness to pay. It then develops financial options that work for the patient’s budget within the boundaries of the provider’s business requirements. This approach makes the process much easier for both parties and dramatically improves the patient financial experience—making it far more likely that each person who visits the hospital for care will end up becoming a net promoter for the institution.