Posted by Bethany Frank on 20 May 2016
The United States is in the midst of a massive transformation in healthcare. New technological requirements and rising insurance complexities are changing everything from how providers deliver care to how they get paid for their services. With the national fate of healthcare up for constant debate, providers are often left to deal with an increasingly competitive market and post-modern consumer demands on their own. Where are things headed, and how can healthcare providers adapt?
Focus on Patient Satisfaction
Healthcare is quickly becoming like most other consumer-centric industries in the United States— an evolving market has given way to a new age in which patients are no longer inactive recipients in the healthcare system but involved participants. As out-of-pocket expenses soar, patients are paying closer attention to the level of care received. Patients want the kind of immediate, customized experience they’ve come to expect from other service providers from their healthcare providers as well.
Poor communication, a failure to engage patients via appropriate channels, and inattentive medical care could lead to a negative reputation that is difficult to reverse. In an era where information spreads unpredictably fast on the Internet, unfavorable patient sentiment can be as damaging to a healthcare provider as poor reviews are to a restaurant or retailer. In order to maintain sound revenue cycles, healthcare providers will have to meet the high expectations and fulfill the role of service-driven, patient-focused organizations.
The healthcare industry has been among the last to adjust to the "digital age". Patients have long associated hospitals and doctors’ offices with archaic administrative functions, but overall shifts in technology usage are now driving demand for better connectivity. A lack of electronic payment options or a poorly designed web interface can be off-putting to patients and harmful to providers in the long run. A premium electronic payment experience is a major key to improving patient satisfaction in the current healthcare market.
Going digital can also help a healthcare organization streamline its internal operations. Implementing an electronic payment solution and switching to digital medical records can simplify administrative functions, help reduce costs, and contribute to a better patient experience.
Offer Flexibility and Personalization
According to the National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, the number of employers offering Consumer Direct Health Plans (CDHPs) is expected to increase from 27% to 36% by 2017. The rise of these high-deductible health insurance plans means more patients will be responsible for larger portions of their own medical expenses than ever before.
Increased financial responsibility puts significant strain on patients who are used to lower out-of-pocket costs. Many also have trouble understanding their medical bills. Healthcare providers can ease the transition by offering flexible payment models and a personal touch that helps patients manage expenses. Going forward, healthcare providers will have to utilize technology to effectively engage their patients or risk accumulating bad debt. Efforts such as sending timely email reminders, equipping customer service representatives with the right software, and accepting a variety of payment methods can have noticeable impacts on a provider’s overall financial standing.
The rise of healthcare consumerism necessitates a number of industry-wide shifts in perspective. Interaction shouldn’t end when a patient leaves the office; providers need to be more cognizant of the full patient experience being offered and place a greater focus on digital service. As it becomes more difficult for both patients to pay medical bills and providers to get paid for their services, providers would benefit from taking simple steps to improve patient engagement.