In 2018, $18.5 billion was invested into the payments industry. This should tell us that the payment experience is an important competitive differentiator and that’s true even for an industry like healthcare. While clinical care will always be the number one priority for Health Systems, organizations cannot afford to ignore patient financial responsibility.
Still, patient payments are unlike typical transactions, which makes it challenging to improve the patient payment experience. To start, it’s difficult for patients to know the exact price of care before treatment and healthcare expenses are not always planned for. Even if treatment is necessary, patients often avoid or delay that treatment due to concerns about cost. This means fewer visits for Health Systems and as a result, narrow operating margins and less revenue. A better billing and payment process can address this issue. In fact, Health Systems that address patient financial responsibility with a better payment experience increase patient satisfaction and build loyalty. Loyalty influences visit volume for meaningful financial results, so a better payment experience is crucial for success.
As Patient Financial Responsibility Grows, Affordability Must be Addressed
To ensure patients’ financial responsibilities are fulfilled, Health Systems must first address patients’ top concern: affordability. Fortunately, there are several ways to do this. Starting at pre-service, your Health System should provide cost estimates for patients. This helps manage patients’ expectations for the cost of their treatment, reducing the chance for a surprisingly high bill after receiving care. When providing estimates, share the payment options that are available to your patients.
Speaking of options, make flexible payment options available to patients from pre-service to post-service. Payment plans and financing offers allow patients to set up monthly recurring payments. Addressing patient financial responsibility requires payment options that patients can actually afford. Your Health System can also allow patients to schedule a future payment. For instance, if a patient can afford to pay their bill in full, but they need to wait until their next paycheck, empower the patient to schedule a payment on their preferred date.
Make sure patients can access these options on their own, too. While patients should be able to contact staff to sign up for flexible payment options, this should not be the only way. Provide an online, self-service enrollment option that gives patients more control over managing their financial responsibilities. If you’d like to learn more about this approach to patient financial responsibility, join us with ClearBalance at HFMA Annual this year!
A Personalized Approach to Patient Financial Responsibility
To address growing patient financial responsibility while nurturing patient loyalty, personalization is key. During the billing and payment process, your Health System should make patients feel like you know them. After all, your patient did just receive clinical treatment from your Health System. Tailor communication and payment options to the patients’ needs. Remember, what works for one patient, may not work for another. Your Health System can use business rules and patient-specific data to personalize patient financial care in an efficient way. For example, if a patient has a bill balance that is over $1,500, send communication with information on payment plans. If the bill balance is smaller, use communication to encourage patients to pay earlier with prompt payment discounts.
Organizations across industries, especially retail, have recognized the importance of the payment experience. This concept is starting to catch on in healthcare, too. Make sure your Health System doesn’t get left behind because better patient financial care is a valuable competitive differentiator and a source of patient loyalty.
To learn more how the financial experience can serve as a powerful business tool, read our CEO’s latest article in Forbes, “A 5-Star Payment Experience is Something to Brag About, or At Least Strive For, Especially in Healthcare.”