If you’ve read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, you are intimately familiar with the negative effects rising out-of-pocket costs have on both patients themselves and the providers where they receive care. But there is reason for hope. Some healthcare providers have incorporated patient-friendly processes that are yielding positive results for both patients’ and providers’ financial health.
Patients Are People
In the past, when big insurance companies were fronting the bill, patients didn’t mind so much where they received their care—the choice was usually determined by proximity and where their insurance was accepted. But now that patients are responsible for more of the bill, they feel empowered to be more selective about where they receive care. In other words, patients have become consumers. And, as consumers, they are more likely to seek out reviews from their peers and to choose providers that offer these things:
A focus on the entire patient journey
From admission to final bill collection, the patient feels cared for and respected. While in days past, patient experience mostly centered on their interaction with doctors and nurses, patients today form their opinion based on factors outside the clinical setting.
Greater insight into costs
Ninety percent of patients expect to know the costs of their care ahead of time. In no other industry do we buy a product or service before knowing what it’s going to cost us. Imagine buying a car without knowing the price. You pick something that best fits your commute, family, and hobbies, drive it home and then receive a bill in the mail. It’s practically unthinkable!
Multiple ways to pay their bills
Whether it’s a trip to Target, an Amazon.com purchase, or financing a big-ticket item like a new car, consumers have been conditioned to expect different ways to pay and financing options. Providers that offer financing options both up front and after the time of service, as well as online or mobile payment methods, are more appealing to today’s healthcare consumers.
Access to information
Today’s patients want more of a say in the care they receive, which means they want to understand their options. This requires an open line of communication between patients and doctors, as well as patients and the billing office.
We saw in Part 2 that dissatisfied patients are less loyal to providers and less likely to pay their bills in full. Not surprisingly, patients who are satisfied with their care—including their billing experience—are more likely to pay their bills in full, return for future services, and recommend the provider to friends and family.
One in three patients would switch providers if they found one that was more affordable. Losing even a small percentage of those patients can means millions of dollars walk out the door with them. Loyalty, referrals, and in-full payments naturally lead to increased cash flow and reduced bad debt for providers.
In a clinical setting, it’s clear that the patient is a person. A living, breathing human—often in pain or distress—who deserves compassion, personalized attention, and clear communication. But once patients turn into AR, it’s easy to lose sight of their humanity and to treat them as merely a bill to be collected. This oversight represents one of the greatest areas for opportunity in shifting to a more patient-friendly industry.