CLARITY: The Beginning Of A Better Patient Financial Experience

Patientco_UX_design

By Terrance Luckett, UX Director

After all the blood work is done and the paper hospital gown is gone, the much-neglected patient statement is generally the first post-care touch point a provider has with their patient. This patient statement is the true beginning of the patient’s financial user experience. User experience is generally thought of in conjunction with web design and iPhone apps, employing snazzy graphics and intuitive web interfaces. In the case of the patient, however, the user experience starts with a humble sheet of paper.

We believed that by throwing out all conventional wisdom regarding patient statements and redesigning a new type of statement from the ground up, we could shake up the patient user experience and ensure success for our provider clients. I was tapped to lead the redesign from concept to testing and implementation.

As I dove in to the project, it became increasingly obvious that redesigning our statement was more than just a redesign. It was actually the launching point of a complete shift in thinking around patient payments. Needless to say, the gravitas of such a shift would require a broad and solid User Experience (UX) strategy that extends throughout the entire patient engagement.

This new approach meant the fundamentals of UX design would need to be realized and absorbed by the entire organization so that it could be easily communicated through all external channels. If patients begin their post-visit experience with a paper statement, and Patientco is a cloud-based patient payment platform, how do we bridge the gap? How do we clearly lead a user to their preferred payment method with as few obstacles (perceived or actual) as possible– from a sheet of paper? Can a paper statement with a new design actually increase patient payments? Can it moderate patient anxiety? Can it say something positive about Patientco and it’s expanding list of technologically-hungry healthcare providers? Being an optimistic UX professional, my answer to much of these and countless other questions was pretty simple…

Of course, why not?

We all know paper statements aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, even though many of us would like them to. If done well, they can be highly effective and an important ingredient in a larger patient experience. Approaching statements through the lens of human centered design, and applying various UX principals ultimately means less friction between the patient and provider. Translation… a happier and more efficient A/R department.

To tackle the massive challenge of redesigning our statement, the first step is mapping out the key stakeholders and gathering as much information as possible. For the Patientco statement redesign, I decided to key in to the three primary stakeholders:[1]: healthcare providers who are Patientco clients, [2]: Patientco’s senior leadership team, and [3]: patients, who are the end users. Having a fundamental understanding of what your stakeholders know about a given subject and learning what they expect or desires ensures you are on solid ground and heading in the right direction.

After spending dedicated time with each of these stakeholders, it was undeniable that the key to building a better statement came down to one word. CLARITY. Patients want clarity: easily identifiable contact information, non-cryptic line items of services received, and clear payment options. Providers need clarity to reduce the time to pay and to save money from employing  costly billing specialists to explain statements to patients. Lastly, Patientco as a company needs to be the vehicle that clearly provides a communication vehicle between provider and patient.

As part of an overarching statement redesign strategy, with clarity as the proverbial North Star, I turned to the web. It is after all the place where the disciplines of information architecture and design patterns have matured. The web is also a fantastic digital design muse. In the early design stages, I made it a point to use web methodologies in print, organizing information much the way a UX Designer would display content on a screen. Incorporating these fundamentals had two distinct benefits. [1]: It creates a sense of familiarity for the patient and organizes information in bite size chunks; displaying a logical summary near the top, then revealing more detail as the patient scans down the page; and [2]: It creates a natural and cohesive experience going from paper to web when making an online payment.

Statements are complex and there is nothing easy about getting them right because there are so many variables in play. However, at Patientco, we expressly decided ‘clarity’ for the patient was our highest priority. Through hands-on research and testing, supported by countless studies, we found that having an effective statement, which delivers information to the patient with the least amount of ambiguity, is critical to getting paid. Treating a statement as an annoying yet necessary requirement, rather than an official form of correspondence, says a lot about a healthcare provider. This is especially true when seen through the lens of the overall patient experience. For an industry that is in the business of helping people, a well thought out statement will serve every healthcare provider well. Sure it’s just a statement, but it’s a critical touch point that, if executed poorly, will make an otherwise great patient experience end on a sour note.

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