Posted by Bethany Frank on 06 Sep 2016
A patient’s financial experience has a powerful effect on his or her overall sentiment towards a healthcare provider. Statistics show only 15% of patients would recommend a provider if they are dissatisfied with the payments process, and only 33% of them end up paying their bills in full (2014 Conance, Consumer Impact Study). Many providers are finding themselves unprepared to meet modern consumer demands for digital service, and a majority of them view technology as one of the biggest challenges facing the industry.
Patient expectations around healthcare payments are largely shaped by the options available in other consumer-facing industries, i.e. retail and banking. Providers will need to work on establishing greater trust and communication with patients to improve patient payments, or they will risk hurting their own financial health. In order to help patients understand and get used to their increased financial responsibility, healthcare providers should acknowledge them as consumers who are looking for value and convenience in exchange for their business.
With options like online bill payment, self-checkout, and AutoPay available outside healthcare, patients can become easily frustrated by the complicated manual processes and lack of self-service capabilities frequently associated with their medical bills. A comprehensive online portal that makes it easy for patients to view bills and make payments both increases patient satisfaction and helps providers get paid faster, thereby reducing the risk of accumulating bad debt.
Although an often overlooked aspect, user experience can significantly impact overall patient satisfaction rates. Poor design can further deteriorate an already frustrated patient’s opinion of a healthcare provider and make the patient less likely to return, much like it would make a customer unlikely to purchase goods from a particular retailer. Alternatively, a clean and efficient interface that simplifies the bill payment process can help providers turn billing challenges into a positive experience for their patients. A well-designed interface paired with the right level of support can go a long way in improving patient satisfaction even when billing difficulties arise.
Transparency and Engagement
Billing disputes often occur simply because a patient is unable to properly interpret the charges. In today’s healthcare landscape, a seemingly routine procedure can comprise of primary physicians, specialists, facilities, anesthesiologists, and more. Billing for each of these parties is often completed separately, with insurance settlements and out-of-pocket charges occurring for each one. As new regulatory complexities add to the confusion, healthcare providers who are best able to streamline this process are likely to gain a competitive edge in the years ahead. A payments platform with features like messaging and payment reminders could help providers communicate with patients about their medical expenses.
A patient’s financial and in-office experiences should be complementary to one another. Since every patient has to pay for medical care through insurance and/or otherwise, the payments process is a valuable touchpoint for providers to enhance the patient experience. Other industries have seen notable success through simple tactics like optimizing user experience, offering customers comprehensive payment options, and establishing open lines of trust and communication. Healthcare providers should look to adopt these kinds of customer-oriented payment practices as self-service and digital engagement become the norm.
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