Executive Summary

Two key components define the patient financial experience: patient engagement and payment. Health Systems must grab patient’s attention with the right financial communication and then influence the patient to act, or pay.

If patient engagement and payment are the two components that define the financial experience, how can we improve them and define an even better experience? The answer: with data.

Before we can find ways to improve, Health Systems should understand what optimized engagement and payment flows look like. Then, we can examine how data supports that and how to know when you’ve perfected the patient financial experience. By achieving this, Health Systems set themselves up for more payments today and more visits tomorrow.

The Building Blocks for Superior Patient Engagement

Based on our experience working with large Health Systems, superior patient engagement has two primary elements:

  • Digital-first; and
  • Tailored to preferences and context.

Taking a digital-first approach is the foundation for a solid patient engagement strategy. We’re not just saying this because digital payment tools are convenient and consumers love them (which is true); shifting to digital actually allows you to monitor outreach activities and corresponding outcomes, like open rates and click-throughs.

Using Data to Drive Patient Engagement

To achieve this, collect patient contact information like a retail business. Capture email addresses and phone numbers upfront. While you’re at it, capture patient consent to be contacted digitally for payment notifications.

With digital, Health Systems can easily monitor how and when patients receive financial communication. Then, they can track how patients respond to that communication. In other words, did that patient open the eBill you sent on Monday at 2 p.m.? Since a digital-first approach answers questions like whether a patient opened her eBill last week, Health Systems can use that intel to tailor patient financial communications. By tailored, we mean communications should consider a patient’s preferences and the context of each interaction.

To do this, offer patients their choice of communication methods. Allow patients to opt in for eBills or text notifications, or even stick with paper statements. Patientco data reveals that some Health Systems see eBill adoption rates as high as 98 percent and text adoption rates of 55 percent when their patients choose how they receive communication.patient-financial-experience

Superior Patient Engagement is Designed with the Consumer in Mind

As your Health System communicates via patients’ preferred channels, collect behavioral data to understand how patients actually respond. This highlights the differences between a patient’s stated preferences, i.e. their decision to opt in for eBills and implied preferences, i.e. how they choose to respond. Health Systems can use these insights to follow up with patients in a personalized way or through a different channel to drive payments.

Above all, consumer-friendly patient engagement should be easy to understand. Why would patients engage with a message they didn’t understand, let alone pay a bill they don’t understand? Effective financial communication translates complex medical terms and billing codes to plain language. This is essential as a recent Patientco survey revealed that one-in-five patients have called their provider because they were confused by their healthcare bill.

In short, superior patient engagement is designed with the consumer in mind. Consumers expect digital. Consumers expect the businesses they pay to accommodate their preferences.

Patients value Health Systems that deliver on those expectations. In fact, Patientco’s survey revealed that nearly 80 percent of patients consider the financial experience when choosing a healthcare provider.

The Building Blocks for a Superior Payment Flow

To ensure patients choose your organization for future visits, differentiate your Health System with its payment experience, which requires three elements:

  • Comprehensive, yet consistent;
  • Considerate of bill balance; and
  • Intuitive

How do you make a payment flow comprehensive? Give patients a uniform billing experience across a Health System’s various acute and ambulatory locations.

Imagine the confusion patients feel when they receive multiple bills from one hospital stay – a bill for the procedure and a bill for the follow up visit. Each bill could also look different, which makes it difficult to read. Giving patients one bill with a consistent payment process eliminates confusion and makes it easier to pay.

Using Data to Improve the Payment Experience

Additionally, the payment flow should consider and adjust to the patient’s bill balance.

Each patient’s financial situation varies. If your Health System considers bill balance and patient-specific data, you can deliver better payment options to patients.

Just think – you’re a patient that’s been discharged from the hospital and you’re expecting an expensive medical bill. When you receive the statement and mentally prepare yourself for an unaffordable bill, you’re prompted with payment plan options. These payment options that fit your budget leave you relieved and satisfied. Satisfied patients are more likely to remain loyal to your Health System and drive referrals.

Lastly, the payment flow must be intuitive. Nothing is more frustrating than attempting to make a payment and giving up because the website was confusing.

A user-friendly payment flow also boosts self-service payments. If it’s easy to complete a payment or enroll in a payment plan without staff assistance, patients are more likely to pay. For instance, one Health System worked with Patientco to offer flexible payment plans that allow patients to self-enroll. This Health System saw a 300+ percent increase of patient-initiated enrollments in payment plans.

Data is the Blueprint for a Better Patient Financial Experience

Offering more ways to engage and pay digitally means your Health System can better understand and accommodate patients’ preferences. The key is tracking those preferences and the resulting behaviors so your Health System can establish processes based on that data. Doing so supports a better, more tailored patient financial experience.

Patientco believes personalized care deserves a personalized financial experience. In order to define and deliver that experience, your Health System needs data. With the right resources and partner, every enterprise Health System can accomplish this. And they should, because experience trumps all when it comes to patient loyalty. Happy, loyal patients are paying patients and keeping them satisfied is a worthwhile investment.

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