When was the last time your hospital evaluated its patient payment strategy? Now may be the time for a refresh.
Fewer than four in 10 Americans could pay an unexpected $1,000 bill from their savings, a recent Bankrate survey shows. Nearly one in five would use a credit card to pay for the expense, incurring interest charges. About one in 10 would turn to a family member to borrow the funds.
But the need to hit "refresh" on payment strategies isn't just a smart move in the current economic environment, when unemployment remains elevated. At Avadyne Health, we're also seeing trends that point to a strong desire for more modern approaches to payment:
- 70% of consumers expect technology to become a bigger part of their lives in the next three years, an Accenture analysis found. This means healthcare organizations must elevate their technology agenda to keep up with consumer preference.
- 90% of patient access leaders believe the patient experience will be the most important differentiator for winning and retaining patients in 2021. The patient financial experience–the first and last experience consumers have with a hospital–merits attention from revenue cycle leaders.
- 2020 saw a surge in digital payments, including alternative payments like Apple Pay. That's a trend that healthcare revenue cycle leaders should keep in mind in developing their approach to payment and account management.
When it comes to taking a fresh look at your patient payment strategy, where should healthcare revenue cycle leaders focus their attention? These five areas offer a beneficial starting point:
No. 1: Make the move toward an omnichannel patient financial experience. With more consumers seeking digital-first communications and contactless payment, an omnichannel approach to patient financial services will soon become a revenue cycle leader's greatest resource. The best models build online chat, texting and phone support into all billing access points to provide assistance whenever and wherever it's needed. Not only does this approach boost satisfaction, but it also increases self-pay collections and reduces cost to collect.
No. 2: Create a more customized communications approach. 60% of consumers are less than satisfied with their hospital's ability to customize the way in which hospital bills are delivered, the Bridging the Gap market study found. Leading hospitals consider generational and individual preferences in building out a timely, transparent communications strategy. The goal is simple: Meet patients where they want to be met.
No. 3: Ramp up financial clearance. Would you go to a restaurant not knowing how much you could expect to pay for a meal? Not likely. So why should the need to understand cost of care–before care is delivered–be any different? Examine your organization's financial clearance process. Then ask yourself:
- To what extent could your organization deliver highly accurate out-of-pocket estimates prior to care delivery, including the amount of the patient deductible met to date?
- Does your revenue cycle department have the tools to screen uninsured patients for eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid and enroll individuals for coverage?
- Does your hospital help patients in need apply for charity care?
Both face-to-face advocacy and technology-enabled processes create a more positive, transparent patient financial experience–and improves collections.
No. 4: Make sure financial policies are up-to-date and easy to understand. If your organization hasn't dusted off its financial policies in the past five to 10 years, do the policies of yesterday apply to today's environment? A phrase such as "this isn't your mother's patient financial experience" comes to mind. When financial policies reflect the changing needs of consumers as well as the organizations that provide care, expectations are more clear and easier to enforce. Further, the accounts receivable processes that support these policies are more timely, decisive, and consistent.
No. 5: Cash forward from bad debt. Hospitals who wait too long for patients to pay after bills are sent can experience higher bad debt. A more effective approach: Incorporate predictive analytics to determine likelihood of payment. Then use an omnichannel approach of self-service and assisted service with a modern contact center to generate higher levels of patient engagement–and improve your financial health.
If your organization hasn't evaluated its payment strategy in the past couple of years, it's time to consider whether your approach–and your revenue–could benefit from a fresh look.
Care to continue the conversation? Contact Avadyne Health for a complimentary review of your self-pay collections and omnichannel approaches.