What Consumers Want: ClarityClarity. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most elusive things in the world—particularly when it comes to the patient financial experience.

If you work in healthcare, this isn’t exactly earth-shattering news. By and large, Americans trust their doctors and have at least a neutral (if not a positive!) patient experience. That is, until they reach that last touchpoint in their care—an impersonal, confusing medical bill seemingly written in an entirely different language.

As industry leaders know all too well, patients are the fastest-growing payers. They already account for more than 15% of our clients’ net patient revenue, and that number keeps on climbing. But here’s the rub: the average healthcare provider collects less than 20 cents on the dollar for patient balances.

In this new landscape, Health Systems are losing money by the minute. But what if it didn’t have to be that way?

Patientco data reveals that as bill balances climb above $500, patients are more likely to make a partial payment than to pay in full, indicating a willingness but an inability to pay.

So, if your patients are willing to pay, then how can you help them pay?

We suspect there are a few reasons. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to talk to you about what consumers (that is, patients) want, using what we’ve learned from experimentation, extensive patient and client feedback, and several years’ worth of analysis by our data scientists. But today, we’re going to start simple (or, at least, deceptively simple).

I’d like to ask you three questions:

  1. Do your patients actually understand what they’re being billed for?
  2. Do they understand what their payment/financing options are?
  3. How sure are you?

Patients have started to approach healthcare with a consumer mindset. Quite frankly, they can’t afford not to. With the rise of high deductible health plans and increased out-of-pocket costs, most Americans aren’t sure what their insurance is supposed to cover, and they’re wary of paying bills that they don’t understand.

Think about it: If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, as many Americans do, and you open a medical bill with a bunch of billing codes and descriptions that would take an advanced degree or a Rosetta Stone to decipher, are you going to pay that bill right away? Survey says… maybe not.

But if you lack clarity on what those charges are for (and whether you’re being billed correctly)? Definitely not.

According to a recent piece by the LA Times, patients often have to go to the trouble of requesting an itemized bill if they want to see the actual details of their treatment.

To compound this issue, it’s confusing for patients to get EOBs that say “This is not a bill” (but certainly look like a bill) and then to receive multiple statements for a single encounter (ex: separate anesthesia, hospital, and MD bills). This experience certainly wasn’t designed with a lot of empathy for the people on the receiving end.

So, what can your organization do to add clarity? How can you make your patients’ lives easier and improve your Health System’s bottom line?

Give them a ‘Rosetta Stone.’

Provide your patients with statements via their preferred channel (print or digital) and include plain-language billing translations. A patient might not understand “Arthrogram 73040,” but she will probably understand (and be more willing to pay for) “Shoulder X-Ray.” If you have the infrastructure to consolidate your billing, even better.

Additionally, offering patients clarity on available payment options, financing resources, and discounts will not only improve your organization’s bottom line by bringing in dollars today—it will also enhance the overall patient experience, increase patient satisfaction, and build loyalty for the future.