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Four ways group practices can create a better patient experience

Insight Article - August 24, 2018

Patient Access

Patient Engagement

Revenue Cycle

The role of patients in the healthcare industry has grown substantially as ever-increasing payment responsibility forces them to be key stakeholders in the industry. While high deductible health plans have fueled much of responsibility increases, they are only a single piece of the entire puzzle. The Kalorama Foundation found that total consumer out-of-pocket spending in the industry is growing rapidly and is expected to be $608 billion by 2019.
 
For provider organizations, the connection between patient collections and their organization’s financial stability has become difficult to ignore as payers cover less of the amount due for services rendered. This may help explain why 58 percent of providers report their top revenue cycle concern is related to patient collections, according to data collected by a 2017 Provider Healthcare Payments Survey.
 
Despite these trends, consideration of the patient experience is often an afterthought throughout almost all provider communications and processes surrounding payment responsibility. The consequences when providers do not prioritize the payment experience come in the form of unhappy patients, which then equate to customer attrition and lower revenue margins. In fact, a 2017 Consumers Healthcare Payments Survey found that 65 percent of consumers would consider switching providers for a better healthcare payments experience.
 
This article outlines the four ways that group practices are making patients unhappy with their payment processes and communications, and how to change those trends for a better patient experience.
 

1. Sending outdated paper statements to collect from patients

Nowhere is the pain of the payment experience felt as much as when paper statements are sent to patients. Nearly 60 percent of providers surveyed in a 2017 Provider Healthcare Payments Survey reported that paper statements were the primary method of collecting from patients; yet, 41 percent of providers have not changed their patient statement in over five years. The reliance on an outdated method of billing may be a major contributor to why 73 percent of providers report that it takes longer than 30 days to collect from patients.

Consumer surveys reveal similar findings about providers’ reliance on paper statements. Four out of five consumers surveyed reported that they receive their provider bills via mail, while 70 percent of consumers reported being confused by their provider bills (Consumer Healthcare Payments Survey 2017). There may be many factors that go into consumer confusion in the provider billing process; however, the possible connection between paper statements and confusion is hard to ignore. The connection becomes much stronger when considering the importance consumers place on an easy-to-read bill – 89 percent said it was important for their medical bill experience, according to Aite Group.
 

2. Not having the “payment responsibility” talk with patients

Consumer confusion results in a widening divide between healthcare organizations and the customers they serve. Examples of this include the more than 50 percent of consumers who received a bill for an amount expected to be covered by their health plan or had an amount due for more than was expected, and more than 25 percent of consumers who had a medical bill turned over to a collection agency in the last year. These experiences could be why 75 percent of consumers feel healthcare does not deliver good value for what is spent, according to the National Opinion Research Center.

The easiest way to combat these fears is to give patients exactly what they want – 88 percent of patient want to know payment responsibility upfront (Consumer Healthcare Payments Survey 2017). By having a conversation about payment responsibility early in the patient experience, patients have the opportunity to better understand the bill that they will receive, making the payment conversation easier for both the provider staff and their patients.

 
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3. Limiting how patients can pay you

Healthcare is different from most other industries, but most patients are not making that differentiation – especially when things like getting a paper statement for a bill they already paid happen. The digital, always-connected world has molded consumer expectations so much that patients refuse to accept anything less than a convenient and seamless process, especially when it comes to their payment experience.

As more companies in other industries deliver convenience as a standard, patients have come to expect this streamlined and seamless experience with their healthcare payments as well. This trend is best demonstrated by the 71 percent of consumers who want to pay all of their healthcare bills in one place, such as an online portal. (Consumer Healthcare Payments Survey 2017).

Consumers not only want and expect convenience in healthcare but will also seek out the more convenient options and make their choices based on these options. Eighty percent of patients said that payment channel choices were very or somewhat important to their medical bill payment experience (Aite Group).

4. Ignoring the mobile revolution

Mobile devices have become an integral part of modern life with 77 percent of Americans now owning a smartphone. Smartphones are no longer a technology reserved for the younger generations either. When the ownership data is broken out by age brackets, smartphone ownership is strong across all demographics – even in the over 50 group, according to Pew Research Center.

A mobile component is quickly becoming the norm for a convenient experience for patients with payments playing a vital role in that experience. Mobile payments have become so ingrained in the digital world that more than half of the top 2017 apps in the Apple App Store featured the ability to make or send payments as core to its functionality.

Consumers want the mobile experience in healthcare too as shown by the 80 percent of consumers who want to check in for a provider visit on their own secure mobile device and 65 percent who would download a mobile app to pay all of their healthcare bills (Consumer Healthcare Payments Survey 2017).
 
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