Posted by Bethany Frank on 23 Jun 2016
Healthcare providers in the United States today face unparalleled financial challenges as they deal with the increasing consumerization of the industry. Patients are responsible for larger portions of their healthcare expenses than ever before, creating confusion and stress for patients and providers. As healthcare transforms into a commodity paid for by consumers much like anything else, providers must take the steps necessary to maintain good cash flow and ensure the overall financial well-being of their organization.
Healthcare organizations would benefit from adopting a more business-like approach as the industry evolves. Patients are going to behave more like consumers in the healthcare space as their financial responsibility increases; in response, providers must make a stronger effort to offer patients a positive experience. Although often overlooked, the payments process can be an effective vehicle to increase patient satisfaction and reduce bad debt.
Many patients are accustomed to payment arrangements in which their medical costs are paid for through their health insurance plan, with little to no out-of-pocket component to their bills. Unfortunately, with insurance premiums increasing year after year and coverage thinning in comparison, that is no longer the case for millions of people. The consumer direct health plans (CDHPs) that are prominent now not only cost more in terms of premiums but often require patients to pay higher deductibles before their benefits actually kick in as well. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust 2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey, the average deductible workers pay for before insurance applies increased from $303 in 2006 to $1,077 today.
Often unaware of how expensive their treatments are, many patients are left unable to pay their medical bills once they receive them. Not only does this make for a frustrated patient, but it also threatens the financial viability of the healthcare organization. Giving patients the flexibility to choose their preferred payment method makes paying for medical care a lot more manageable. Patients are more likely to submit payments on time and return to healthcare providers that accommodate various financial situations and offer the most payment options.
A lack of convenient payment channels can also negatively impact patient satisfaction and make it more difficult for healthcare providers to get paid. Mailed paper statements and archaic payment processes are a major turn-off, especially in an age where so much can be done online. Providers should offer patients the ability to access bill statements and submit payments through all major channels including web, mobile, IVR, or customer service agent. By covering all bases, providers can ensure all patients—from the most tech-savvy millennials to the elderly—are able to find a quick and convenient way to pay their medical bills.
Healthcare is ultimately a business, and therefore providers must be paid for the services they render. For many patients, however, having to directly pay a healthcare provider for medical service is a new phenomenon. Providers can help ease the transition to this new model of healthcare by offering flexibility and convenience throughout the payments process. Allowing patients to choose their preferred payment method, offering multiple payment options, and enabling multichannel payments can vastly increase a provider’s chances of receiving payments on time. As the industry becomes more consumer-oriented and value-based, a comprehensive payment solution will be an essential component to maintaining good financial health in the long run.