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September marks the start of a new football season, and with that comes some changes to the way the game is played. This year alone, NFL players and coaches will have to adapt to changes like new rules for extra point kick attempts, harsher penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct and the relocation of the Rams due to changing market demand.

Much like the game of football, the healthcare payments landscape is constantly evolving. Rules, regulations, competition and industry trends like the demands of consumerism continue to change. Given that it’s football season, we’ve decided to take some tips from how challenges are addressed in the game of football and apply them to how healthcare can address challenges to improve the consumer experience – quarter by quarter.

First Quarter: Always Seek a Competitive Edge

Now more than ever, consumers have greater control over their healthcare decisions. With the ability to shop around for healthcare options, consumers are driving competition among healthcare organizations, to win business and add to their patient base. Every experience that a healthcare organization delivers can influence a consumer’s buying decision. Even something as simple as a one-time communication can shape the consumer’s impression of you and determine whether or not they will return to you for services in the future.

You can look for ways to improve the experience you deliver to consumers by taking tips from pros in other industries. Consider Uber: Uber consistently delivers a high-quality consumer experience in order to win business over the competition and increase the number of people using the service.

Take a lesson from Uber’s convenient payment experience and give patients the ability to set up a digital wallet to save payment information for future payments. You can also give patients the option to set up automatic payments so they never have to think about making a payment, and your staff never has to worry about tracking down these patients to collect payments. Uber also makes it easy for a consumer to pay for rides for other people. You can replicate this in healthcare by making it easy for a guarantor to pay bills for their entire family.

Second Quarter: Never Underestimate the Importance of a Good Defense

Security breaches are becoming much more prevalent in healthcare. Last year, the largest number of breaches took place within the Health Services sub-sector, which comprised 39% of all breaches in 2015.

It’s not enough to simply check the box on compliance. Cybercrime is getting more sophisticated and cybersecurity is constantly evolving, so it is something you always need to pay attention to. If your organization were to have a breach, it’s not just the dollar amount in fines that are at risk; your reputation is at risk as well. As consumers shop around for their healthcare options, a negative PR event could significantly impact your patient base and ultimately, your bottom line. According to Accenture, nearly 50% of consumers would change healthcare providers if they had a breach.

To prevent a security breach at your organization, you must constantly evolve the way you are defending yourself and make sure that as you offer new payment options to patients, you understand your PCI scope.

Read Compliance and Security and What Do All Those Acronyms Mean? for a list of compliance levels your organization should require.

Third Quarter: Always Have a Backup Option

Better yet, have multiple. Options are key to consumers. The Trends in Healthcare Payments Sixth Annual Report: 2015 revealed that consumers are open to a variety of ways to make healthcare payments. 72% of consumers indicated that they preferred an electronic payment method for their healthcare bills. 64% of consumers said they were interested in mobile payment systems to pay their healthcare bills. Enabling options – such as a digital wallet or automatic payments mentioned above – is a great way to engage with consumers and deliver the payment experience they are looking for. But, don’t forget that not all consumers are the same. While many trends show the growing popularity of things like online payments and Apple Pay®, keep in mind that not every consumer is going to want that. The key is to offer multiple options to deliver a consumer-friendly experience to all patients. Make sure patients understand their payment options by always making it simple to pay, regardless of the payment option a patient prefers.

Fourth Quarter: It’s Not Over Until the Clock Runs Out

When it comes to the provider-patient relationship, the end-to-end experience is key. The patient’s impression of their healthcare encounter doesn’t end when they walk out of your office, or even after you’ve billed the patient. For many healthcare organizations that have patients enrolled in recurring payments or booked for recurring appointments, the patient experience never ends. What about patients who are guarantors for their family members, whom you also see? Their experience with you continues, even as you treat their spouse or children.

Consider every touchpoint as an opportunity to deliver a positive experience, and realize that majority high number of those touchpoints are going to have something to do with billing and payment. Be sure to deliver clear communication about payment responsibility upfront and throughout the payment process, and remember that every communication, including statements, is an opportunity to leave a good impression.

Overtime: Study the Playbook

Check out these blog posts for more tips to deliver a consumer-friendly payment experience:

Four Ways Consumers are Demanding Changes in the Healthcare Payments Experience

Providers Like Convenience, Too – How to Deliver a Consumer-Friendly Experience That Benefits All Stakeholders

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