Meet Stacey. Stacey’s a track and field athlete who just broke her leg in an unfortunate collision with a spatially-unaware pole vaulter. After sharing some choice words with her clumsy collision counterpart, Stacey realizes she needs to go to the emergency room. She calls an Uber and gets a ride to the hospital. The car pulls up to a hospital that is part of a major health system in her community. She slides out of the car and her Uber is paid for when she shuts the door. She doesn’t have to fumble through her wallet for cash. She certainly doesn’t expect to receive a bill for service in the mail a few weeks from now. She just shuts the door. As a nurse wheels her through the automatic sliding doors and into the hospital, Stacey quickly gives her driver a five star rating. Despite the searing pain of her injury, Stacey can’t help but smile thinking about how easy that payment process was to complete.
After signing in at the front desk, the doctors take Stacey to perform scans and tests on her leg. The tests determine that she needs surgery. After her surgery, Stacey purchases crutches from a durable medical equipment (DME) provider and gets picked up by her husband to go home.
Stacey feels better after her surgery, but has a full schedule of follow-up appointments before she can make a full recovery. Luckily, she can see different specialists within the same health system she had her surgery. She gets blood work done regularly and sees a radiologist to make sure her leg is healing well. Once the cast is removed, Stacey sees a physical therapist weekly.
By the time Stacey’s leg is healed, she’s seen a handful of different healthcare providers, some of them multiple times, and racked up bills for which she will likely owe some degree of payment responsibility. Stacey imagines the stack of individual paper bills she can expect to receive in the mail at some point in the next few weeks and shudders. She shuts her eyes and tries to think back to simpler payment experiences, like when she bought all the decorations for her son’s pirate-themed birthday party from three different suppliers on Etsy. Or how much easier it was to click “buy now” for those noise-cancelling headphones when Amazon automatically populated her payment information. Or how simple it was to pay for the Uber that got her to the hospital in the first place.
Healthcare bills shouldn’t make patients shudder. Stacey loves her health system and had great experiences with all the providers she saw, but now her overall impression of her experience revolves around the dread she feels towards her healthcare payments process. Stacey’s not alone; the complex and confusing healthcare payments process frustrates many patients. According to the Sixth Annual Trends in Healthcare Payments Report, 76 percent of patients reported that they were confused by bills from their providers.
Other industries have figured out how to deliver a convenient payment experience that keeps consumers coming back. Uber is one example. Consider your experience shopping on Amazon’s site as well. You can shop multiple vendors but still proceed to checkout with one, consolidated shopping cart and easily pay for all of your purchases with one click.
The Amazon payment experience is more or less the norm in retail and other industries, and consumers have come to expect this level of convenience across the board. However, when consumers have a healthcare event like the one Stacey had, they face a complex and confusing journey along the healthcare payments process.
A shift towards consumerism in healthcare has patients pushing back against the confusion and mystery of their healthcare bills. Now, patients are making all kinds of buying choices – from where they eat lunch to what kind of car they’ll buy – and are doing their own research and relying on peer reviews before making decisions. This idea of trusting the crowd is emerging in healthcare, too. According to Accenture, 39 percent of consumers believe patient reviews are the most important trait when selecting a provider.
Given the advances other industries have made in creating a convenient payment experience, as well as the shift towards healthcare consumerism, healthcare cannot afford to continue to deliver inconvenient payment experiences. Just like Stacey’s opinion of her health system turned negative thinking about the stack of paper bills she would receive, every poor experience you give to your patients is a serious risk to the well-being of your business. Nearly half of consumers will switch providers for the ability to understand cost upon scheduling and understand and pay a bill using a preferred payment method. (Accenture) If your patients are frustrated with the experiences you are delivering them, you are at risk of losing them.
How can healthcare organizations improve the payments process and deliver an Amazon-like experience to their patients? Here’s something that will help.