In March of this year, just as the pandemic began to accelerate, our health system clients had to quickly pivot to adjust their revenue cycle strategies and continue to offer care for a fragile population. As a partner to these health systems, Patientco deepened our resolve to listen and help them support their communities and internal processes. We launched our 2020 State of the Patient Financial Experience Survey Report during this time, as well, which includes responses from over 2,000 patients and 50 healthcare providers. In addition to this survey, we set out to talk and listen to leading health systems. We did this by hosting virtual, collaborative sessions with our clients. 

With these insights from revenue cycle leaders, we’ve heard how the healthcare industry has adapted to coronavirus. We also learned more about how this could impact your organization’s revenue cycle strategies. 

We’re going to share some of that intel in this blog post so that you can incorporate the responses of some of the leading health systems in the country into your organization’s current and future plans.

4 Proven Revenue Cycle Strategies for 2020

1. Show compassion by adjusting financial policies to be more flexible.

Nearly a quarter of patients were impacted financially by COVID, either by losing their job or income due to the pandemic, according to our 2020 State of the Patient Financial Experience Report. In our virtual sessions, many revenue cycle leaders reported they made changes to their financial policies. They wanted to offer more compassion and empathy to patients in need.

Several large health systems we’ve spoken with have paused their payment requirements. For example, they stopped asking patients to make a pre-service payment before their procedure. One large health system suspended external bad debt collection efforts. Instead, they have opted to take a softer approach when working with patients. Other health systems have adjusted their revenue cycle strategies by increasing the payment plan options that are available to patients. Further yet, a few are considering third-party financing options. Financing can offer patients the ability to break up high bill balances over a longer period of time. Financing can be a great option when health systems have less cash on hand to fund payment plans.

2. Empathize with patients & seamlessly shift to a fully remote work environment.

In the early stages of the pandemic, revenue cycle teams had to figure out how to shift to working remotely. Meanwhile, team members responsible for collecting payments from patients had to pivot. They had to be more compassionate, as patients’ financial situations began to change. When we conducted our 2020 State of the Patient Financial Experience survey in early April, we found that 29% of healthcare providers spent more time manually enrolling patients in financial assistance programs. Additionally, 47% of providers faced difficulties maintaining business continuity while working remotely due to COVID-19. 

We validated these stats through discussions with several of our health system clients. Revenue cycle leaders approached this shift in a thoughtful and compliant manner. After pushing the entire revenue cycle team remote, one health system shared they were able to see what functions they could make more efficient in a remote environment. For example, several health system clients now allow patients to submit financial assistance applications and attach supporting documentation via their patient portal.

In mid-July, we’ve heard large health systems express they’re exploring the possibility of incorporating longer-term remote policies into their revenue cycle strategies. One top health system is surveying leaders to determine how they can best work remotely. Leaders in that health system must designate employees as 1, 2, or 3. Those designated as 1 need to be onsite. Team members that are designated as 2 means they can be remote or onsite. Meanwhile, 3 means the team member can be fully remote. This will drive capital and operational expense decisions around leasing and office space.

3. Engage patients with digital tools as we practice social distancing.

To reduce direct contact between patients and revenue cycle team members, many healthcare leaders are using existing technologies to drive digital engagement with patients. For example, several health systems shared that they are leveraging patient portals in new ways. Several leaders shared they are using portals for registration, as well as collection of patients’ demographic and insurance information. Some leading health systems also shared that they are enabling self-service appointment rescheduling and adopting online check-in through their portal.

Additionally, some executives are adopting more contactless payment options, like text-to-pay, as part of their revenue cycle strategy. Text-to-pay solutions allow providers to text a bill to a patient. The patient can then pay their bill directly from their smartphone. This reduces reliance on shared hardware devices because they turn a patient’s smartphone into a payment device, which can be used anywhere. With this option, patients don’t have to touch a credit card terminal that countless others have used.

4. Ensure patients feel comfortable returning for care.

Health systems must balance social distancing with getting patients re-engaged with their ongoing health needs through in-person visits. One consistent theme that executives at large health systems expressed is the focus on ensuring patients feel comfortable about returning for care.

To accomplish this, many healthcare leaders are using outbound communications to explain the extensive safety measures being applied within the health system. By outlining specific safety measures, like testing people for COVID-19, temperature checks, sanitation practices and spacing time of entry, patients can trust that they will be safe when they visit their provider. Several organizations explain what patients should prepare for before their visit, what to expect upon arrival and what to expect throughout the visit. By doing so, patients feel better prepared and won’t be surprised by any updated safety protocols associated with COVID-19. 

As the pandemic evolves, so should your revenue cycle strategy.

Policies are changing on a daily basis as the pandemic evolves. Some health systems, like those in New York, were impacted early on. Therefore, they already have processes in place for a resurgence in cases. Meanwhile, health systems in other regions are dealing with an outbreak of the contagion for the first time.

Patientco continues to listen to both patients and health systems. We will share insights and best practices as we learn more. If you’d like to explore how you can adapt your own revenue cycle strategies in response to COVID-19, schedule time with us or read more here.

Stay tuned for more blog posts in our Patientco Listens series!

This blog post is part of our Patientco Listens series. Patientco Listens is a compilation of thought leadership pieces that show how our team is constantly listening to patients and healthcare providers to make the healthcare financial experience easier to navigate. Stay tuned to our blog, as each month we’ll drop a new Patientco Listens post.