by Bird Blitch, CEO Patientco

patientco_blog_patient_payment_problemThe number one obstacle preventing hospitals and healthcare providers from achieving optimum profitability is the growing patient pay problem. More and more, hospitals are relying on patient revenue as an increasingly important part of their overall revenue, a problem that will continue to grow as patient pay increases at a rate of 7.1% annually. This revenue is the most difficult and costly to collect. If you’re not focused on patient pay, now is the time.

Hospitals fail to collect 80% of self-pay revenue, yet 74% of Americans surveyed said that they are willing and able to pay their out-of-pocket expenses. This is a large disconnect, but it’s one that has a solution: Patient Financial Engagement.

Patientco is part of Streamline Health’s net revenue improvement initiative. With this, Streamline has committed to helping its member customers with technology solutions that will enable them to maximize their financial performance with improved operational efficiencies and decreased accounts receivable. A comprehensive Patient Financial Engagement solution is a key component of any organization’s overall patient satisfaction and financial success.

Patient Engagement has been a much-used and analyzed phrase for the past few years as hospitals work towards Stage 2 Meaningful Use guidelines and realizing the dollars associated with them. Where does Patient Financial Engagement fit into the mix? It’s simple. Research has shown that patients don’t pay their healthcare bills for two main reasons:

  1. They don’t understand what they owe
  2. They aren’t given flexible payment options that appeal to them

Clinicians strive to ensure that patients understand their medical conditions and treatments available, but the financial component of healthcare is often ignored.

The average American spends $3,200 per year on healthcare-related expenses. These patients should be handled just like customers in any other transaction: their needs, wants and preferences should all be addressed. They should be communicated to in the way they prefer, and they should have choices of the methods they use to spend their healthcare dollars. An E-mail communication may drive Patient A to action, but Patient B expects a paper bill outlining all his past services from the hospital and probably won’t pay anything until he receives the third statement. Having this intelligence enables a healthcare enterprise to manage their patient communications more efficiently and effectively to drive patient payments.

Patient Financial Engagement empowers hospitals to treat patients like consumers and understanding their preferences is essential. Unlike many purchases, healthcare is a necessary cost and one that most patients are forced to incur. Healthcare enterprises have to realize that to maximize what they collect and deliver true patient satisfaction, the payment process must be as easy as possible. This is achieved with efficient POS collections, patient-friendly statements, intelligent communications, and offering a variety of payment methods.

With patients shouldering more and more of the burden for their healthcare expenses, hospitals can no longer afford not to adopt a Patient Financial Engagement strategy if they want to be financially solvent organizations.