By Patrick Creagh, Marketing SpecialistCDHP250

High deductible health plans are changing the way patients seek out care.

This past Labor Day, the New York Times pointed out that next year, 1 in 3 large employers will only offer high-deductible health plans to their employees as a coverage option. This number is up from 1 in 10 in 2010 and will continue to increase with each new enrollment period.

Forbes published a similar article, citing that almost 3 in 5 employers are moving to consumer-directed health plans (CDHP), a type of high-deductible plan where the employer may contribute to some costs but over time shifts more of the financial responsibility to the employee.

On a macro level, the impacts of shifting of costs to the patient are already well documented.  But providers may find it useful to look at not just the impacts, but also some of the implications.

Obvious: Out-of-Pocket Costs For Patients Will Increase

Less Obvious: Call Volume to the Business Office Will Increase

While this is not always possible, especially under emergency circumstances, patients who bear more responsibility for their healthcare costs will start to consider whether a particular treatment or test is necessary. If so, they may turn to one of the many recent news cycles encouraging patients to dispute their medical bills following a procedure. Providers should expect savvy patients to increase communication with your billing department via calls and messages, so make sure your department is properly equipped to handle the increased call volume.

Obvious: Patients Will Seek Out Lower Healthcare Costs via Comparison Shopping

Less Obvious: Patient Satisfaction and Brand Equity will become more important differentiators to attract patients.

Until recently, it was relatively easy for providers to simply pay lip service to patient satisfaction and branding. Given patients’ increasing willingness to shop for price, these metrics will be just as important to providers as they are to retailers now. We had a patient last week ask us for other providers in the area using Patientco because he was so satisfied with the experience. Like any consumer retail outlet, customer satisfaction may retain patients even when prices are lower elsewhere.

Obvious: Patient A/R Will Comprise a Greater Share of Hospital Revenue

Less Obvious: The Effects of an Under-performing Patient Revenue Cycle Solution Will Increase Exponentially.

In the old business model, it made sense for hospital CFOs to focus their attention on claims efficiency, and it still does. However, many hospitals have a notoriously hard time collecting and processing patient payments and, as patient A/R claims a significant share of hospital revenue, fixing these inefficiencies is more important than ever.

Now that providers are starting to see the big-picture effects of revenue cycle change, now is the type to drill down to the pain points and solve any roadblocks to financial health before enrollment season begins.