Recent Patient Feedback on the Patient Financial Experience

Patients typically have a good clinical experience in both inpatient and outpatient arenas. However, patients often feel dissatisfied, frustrated and confused when it’s time to pay their healthcare bills. Meanwhile, resources that are intended to help don’t always alleviate patients’ pain points. The patient feedback we obtained for our most recent survey report sheds new light on what needs to change.

Since 2019, Patientco talks to thousands of patients every year for our annual survey report. We use this patient feedback to help health systems deliver a financial experience that’s up to par with patient expectations. Our just-released 2021 Patientco’s Annual Survey Report, features feedback from over 3,000 patients about the healthcare billing and payment experience. With this patient feedback, health systems can take action and make changes to better foster patient trust and loyalty. As Patientco’s CEO, Bird Blitch notes in the report:

“Patients should trust their providers to do no harm, both physically and financially. Therefore, getting patients back in for care will take more than eliminating the threat of COVID-19. Health systems must also eliminate threats to patient trust, which include unclear and unaffordable billing communication. Fostering trust benefits everyone in healthcare, from health systems to the patients themselves. When patients are no longer hesitant to receive care, entire communities can achieve better health outcomes while our health systems stay funded. In this scenario, everyone wins.”

Feedback from +3,000 Patients About Healthcare Billing & Payments

Price Estimates Cause Sticker Shock

More healthcare providers are providing price estimates upfront. Yet, patient feedback from our survey reveals that price estimates can actually worsen a patient’s cost concerns. In fact, sticker shock from price estimates cause nearly 1 in 4 patients to cancel their upcoming appointment. Additionally, nearly 1 in 5 patients asked about payment plans or other payment options after receiving an estimate and 15% of patients shopped around for a lower cost at a different provider. 

Cost Concerns Are Consistent Across Income Levels

For Patientco’s survey report, we compiled responses from patients of various demographics, including different incomes, education levels, ages and more. We asked patients about cost concerns and how that impacted their ability to access care. The patient feedback surprised us because cost concerns were consistent across income levels.

8 in 10 patients are less likely to defer care when affordable payment options are available. Nearly 85% of patients with household incomes greater than $100,000 are less likely to defer care with flexible payment options. Even for patients with household incomes over $175,000, that number stays the same. 

Conventional EOBs Don’t Alleviate Patient Confusion

Patient feedback also reveals that confusion is a major hurdle when seeking and paying for healthcare. More than half of patients have felt confused when paying for healthcare services because it’s difficult to understand what their health insurance covered and what they owe. These findings were consistent across education levels – even people with PhDs had difficulties.

Also, a conventional explanation of benefits (EOB) doesn’t alleviate patient confusion. An EOB is designed to give patients clarity, but nearly 2 in 3 patients said that their EOB either did not make sense, took a long time to get, or they didn’t know what to do with the information. Additionally, 1 in 10 patients who have insurance do not even know what an EOB is or what to do with one. 

How RCM Leaders Can Respond to Patient Feedback

Based on the patient feedback gleaned from Patientco’s 2021 State of the Patient Financial Experience Report, there’s room for improvement. So, how should revenue cycle leaders respond?

3 Recommendations for Your RCM Strategy

1. Present affordable payment options alongside price estimates. 

Price estimates shouldn’t worsen a patient’s concerns about cost or worse, drive patients away. Patients need more than just an estimate of what they will owe. They need personalized, affordable payment options presented alongside their estimate. This enables patients to easily plan their budget and set up payment arrangements before receiving care. Upfront, affordable payment options also help ensure patients keep their scheduled appointment, reducing the risk of no-shows and the likelihood that patients will shop around for another provider with a lower cost. 

2. Address affordability concerns by tailoring payment options to each patient. 

Cost concerns are widespread based on patient feedback from our survey report. Patients across income levels reported that cost determines whether they will seek recommended healthcare treatment or defer it. Make sure patients have access to self-service, affordable payment options at every stage of their care journey. Whether it’s a payment plan on an estimate or a financing option on their final bill, flexible payment arrangements are important to foster patient trust and loyalty. Allow patients to enroll in payment plans online or via their mobile device, in real time. Patients don’t want to have to call and wait on hold. Also, your business office team has better things to do than deal with phone calls from frustrated patients looking for more affordable payment options.

3.  Help patients understand their health benefits and how it impacts their out-of-pocket costs. 

The most popular way that health systems help patients understand their health benefits and how this impacts their out-of-pocket cost is very manual and labor-intensive. It involves getting on the phone with patients or getting the patient in a room, and actually going through their situation in detail. Instead, patients need an easy, self-service way to understand their bill so that they feel in control. Interactive education, with simple definitions for copay, coinsurance, deductible and out-of-pocket maximums, presented alongside their most recent medical bill is one way Patientco tackles this. Integrating this information from a patient’s EOB with their bill data gives patients more clarity and understanding in what their health insurer has paid and why, without added burden on health system staff.

For more revenue cycle recommendations based on patient feedback from our 2021 survey report, check out our Patient Financial Experience Playbook. It’s full of actionable insights to help your health system elevate the patient financial experience.