When it comes to concerns about healthcare, affordability and insurance coverage are top of the list for patients, according to Patientco’s latest survey of patients and providers. This is understandable, as the cost of healthcare continues to rise each year. However, our survey revealed something surprising: 87 percent of providers allow patients to pay their healthcare bill in installments, which is something that most patients, 90 percent, want. Yet, payment plan enrollment tends to be challenging for many Health Systems.
Why would it be challenging to drive patient adoption of flexible payment options? After all, isn’t that what they want?
Based on our survey, payment plan enrollment remains low because providers rely on staff-intensive enrollment methods while patients would prefer digital enrollment options. These staff-intensive methods often involve calling patients to provide details on flexible payment options. In fact, more than half of providers call patients to enroll. If the patient wants to sign up, they must provide their personal information to staff via phone.
What’s wrong with conventional payment plan enrollment tactics?
There are several problems with this approach. One is that this requires patients to answer a call from an unknown number during business hours. This also requires the patient to admit to staff that they may not be able to afford their medical bill, which can be embarrassing. For Health Systems that expect patients to call to inquire about flexible payment options, the same issues persist. Locating the right department to contact during business hours and then, admitting you need help affording your bill results in many patients avoiding the process altogether. No wonder payment plan enrollment is lagging.
Demand for digital is high.
Meanwhile, nearly 70 percent of patients would prefer to enroll in a payment plan digitally. Online payment plan enrollment addresses many the issues hindering adoption. Instead of being restricted to business hours, patients can enroll on the device of their choice at any time. This also eliminates any feelings of embarrassment or shame involved with requesting financial help.
At Patientco, we’ve seen that payment plan enrollment grows significantly when patients are empowered with digital, self-service enrollment options. One large enterprise Health System was able to increase patient-initiated payment plan enrollment by 10 times in less than one year.
Still, some revenue cycle leaders may worry that flexible payment options might negatively impact pay-in-full rates. Will a patient pay the full amount if they don’t have to? The answer is yes, because Patientco has found that payment plans actually establish patients’ commitment to pay. We even analyzed hundreds of online payments at one enterprise Health System and discovered that offering flexible payment options actually decreased the average days to pay by over 12 percent, or almost three full days. All that to say, the fear of slowing payments down shouldn’t prevent your Health System from offering self-service payment plan enrollment.
Supporting digital payment plan enrollment can accelerate patient payments. In addition, this enables your Health System to easily address patients’ top concern, which is affordability. Patients should not have to hunt for options to pay their medical bills in a way that fits their budget. Give patients the tools so they can sign up for payment plans themselves. This makes their lives easier, as well as your staff’s lives easier.