Every organization wants to maximize revenue and deliver the best possible healthcare service. The problem is many healthcare organizations fail to realize that these two goals are connected. The finance team might not consider the impact that patient experience can have on revenue, while the patient experience team might not think about payments as part of an overall positive healthcare experience. This disconnect prevents both teams from achieving their goals, and creates a negative impact on a patient’s end-to-end healthcare experience.
Healthcare organizations should not think about the payments process as totally separate from the overall patient experience. It’s time for your VP of Patient Experience to have a seat at the revenue cycle table. Here are a few examples of where a great patient experience and revenue best practices can converge, starting at the very first patient encounter and continuing after a payment has been made.
Two years ago at the InstaMed User Conference 2016, Brian Kalis of Accenture Digital talked about how, “success comes from a people-focused transformation that prioritizes a superior experience and aligns internal organization, process and technology to enable it.” He said that when you “put people back at the heart of healthcare” you can create a positive patient experience at every step of the healthcare process. Patients believe every aspect of their healthcare encounter contributes to their care, starting from the second they walk through a healthcare organization’s door. Your VP of Patient Experience probably agrees that compassion is one of the best and easiest ways to make the patient experience, and just about every experience, better. When staff are welcoming to patients at check-in, it creates a pleasant atmosphere that can help make patients feel more comfortable and positive.
Check-in is also the first opportunity to engage with patients in a conversation about their payment responsibility. The Seventh Annual Trends in Healthcare Payments Report confirmed that 92 percent of consumers want to know payment responsibility prior to a provider visit. It’s important to make sure all staff are equipped to talk to patients about what they owe. The ability to look up a patient’s eligibility and deliver an estimate to give patients an idea of what they’re going to owe goes a long way. Especially with increasing patient responsibility and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), patients may owe a lot more than they expect. Now is the time to start talking about convenient options for payment, such as payment plans and automated payments. This not only helps patients understand their payment options, but also helps organizations to get to revenue faster by making it much easier for patients to pay.
This is also where compassion comes into play. Yes, we’re talking about payments, but we’re also in the business of healthcare. We’re going to collect payments from patients, but providers make that process as simple and convenient as possible to not add stress or confusion to the patient. Give patients all the necessary information they need, be upfront about patient responsibility and be sure to have staff on hand to help patients further if needed.
After patient checkout it is crucial to continue communication with patients, as billing is often the most complicated and confusing process for patients. Consider that 74 percent of consumers are confused by their medical bills and EOBs. Combat this confusion by delivering a clean, easy-to-understand bill that clearly displays what patients owe and offers simple instructions for how to make a payment, including how to pay online. Once they’re on your patient portal, give them the option to manage their payment and communication preferences including:
- Signing up for eStatements to eliminate the confusion of mailed paper bills
- Managing a digital wallet to store payment methods on file for future transactions
- Setting up payment plans and automated payments so patients never miss a payment
- Opting-in for text message communications about when a bill is due so they’ll always be prepared
If your online payment option doesn’t offer patients anything beyond simply making a payment, then you aren’t delivering an experience that is going to encourage continued use and create patient engagement. It is also important to make sure payment is integrated so information is always up to date. If a patient makes a payment then logs back into the patient portal, that balance information should reflect that they just paid. If a patient calls your office with a question, your staff should have visibility into real-time balance information. This creates a seamless experience for patients and staff and minimizes confusion and frustration.
When billing is clear, patients are happier. Happy patients can mean higher patient retention and recruitment for your organization, as patients who are satisfied with billing are five times more likely to recommend a provider (2015 Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Survey). It is also important to understand that reviews and word-of-mouth are increasing in influence on consumer’s trust – three and a half times more than television and radio ads (Accenture 2017). Consumers are much more inclined to warn others of a bad experience than they are to discuss a positive one. The end-to-end experience for the provider-patient relationship is key, as consumers want a simple, seamless experience when it comes to healthcare payments and will not be satisfied if a provider cannot deliver.
The patient experience doesn’t live outside of the payment experience. For many healthcare organizations that have patients enrolled in recurring payments or booked for recurring appointments, the patient experience extends far beyond the actual healthcare visit. Consider every touch point as an opportunity to deliver a positive experience, and realize that many of those touch points 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.