By Bird Blitch, CEO

This article originally appeared on HIMSS, to view the original article click here.

The shift to value-based care and the rise of consumerism are two forces that have changed the way providers and patients interact. While providers have spent a great deal of time finding new ways to clinically engage patients in an effort to drive better cost and quality outcomes, few have considered the potential benefits of engaging patients financially.

Providers know that the more patients understand about their conditions, treatments and potential health consequences, the more likely they will actively participate in their care plans, adhere to treatment and make healthy decisions. The same can be said for patient financial engagement—the more patients understand the financial process, the more likely they are to be financially responsible, feel positive about the patient experience and develop a sense of loyalty with their care provider.

Furthermore, hospitals seeking to improve their competitive advantage need to keep in mind the financial role in the overall patient experience. A 2013 survey by TransUnion Healthcare found that patients who have a positive payment experience give higher marks for the quality of care they received than patients whose payment experience is negative.

In order to attract and retain patients, you should consider following these financial engagements best practices:

1. Know what patients expect.

The shift to higher patient financial responsibility has brought consumerism to the forefront of healthcare. Patients now expect clear communication, convenience and service. Hospitals need to think beyond the paper statement to financially engage patients and ultimately change payment behavior. A comprehensive patient financial engagement strategy is focused on a patient-centered process with the right technology in place to enable your staff to provide complete, consistent and transparent information about what patients are financially responsible for. It must also provide an easy way to facilitate any method that a patient wishes to use for payment. Engaging in direct discussions about costs early and providing convenient payment methods will help patients understand their financial responsibilities and remove barriers to making payment.

2. Keep it simple for your staff.

A comprehensive patient financial engagement strategy can seem daunting with the ever-changing demands of your patients. However, the right technology should actually simplify the process instead of adding complexity. The key is using a consolidated patient payment platform for all payment activity. Whether your patient uses a credit card, cash or check to make an online payment, phone payment or point-of-service payment, your technology should work seamlessly to fully consolidate all payment methods into simple, automated workflows for your staff. The result is a shift from managing a complex process to proactively managing the needs of your patients.

3. Continually optimize and improve.

Your patient financial engagement strategy is not a destination, but instead a journey of continuous improvement at every point in your patients’ financial care continuum. To accomplish this, you must have full visibility into the data gathered throughout your patient payment process, which enables you to identify what is working well and what needs improvement. Without this data, you are confined to making decisions without knowing the full picture, leading to less than optimal results.

Having the right technology to make payments easy, convenient and flexible is crucial to improving the patient financial experience. Offering a variety of payment options and streamlining workflows for your staff to engage patients makes them feel cared for and boosts satisfaction.

The right patient financial engagement solution can help deliver on consumer expectations and enhance the care experience. Patient financial engagement not only yields significant financial benefits for hospitals and providers, it also builds patient satisfaction, loyalty and accountability.