A few years ago after my father died, I pored over the bills we received from the hospital. Even with a background in healthcare revenue cycle, I couldn't make sense of some of them. I remember thinking, "If I can't understand these bills with all my years of experience in healthcare, how could the average person make sense of statements like these?"
Since then, I've been passionate about driving change in healthcare - in particular, around the patient financial experience. Recently, I shared insight on ways providers can design a better patient financial experience in a podcast with Gary David, PhD, Professor of Sociology, Professor of Information Design and Corporate Communication and the Founder of ethno-analytics, LLC, which focuses on integrated design and experience alignment.
One of the things I've come to realize in my work in healthcare is that each of us represents about $1 million in revenue to our local health system in terms of the care and services we receive throughout our lifetime–much of it during the end of life. Today's consumers have the power to demand healthcare organizations meet them where they are by:
- Providing financial information the way they wish to receive it–by email or text, through a patient portal or via a postal statement
- Anticipating their questions regarding the healthcare billing process–and making it easy to find answers in ways that most appeal to them, from augmented reality apps to chat bots to a phone call with a customer service representative
- Making it easy for patients to pay for and manage the cost of their care, with multiple options for payment and access to a variety of financing options, when needed
Yet too often, healthcare providers stumble in their efforts to provide the type of financial experience consumers crave. Given that medical billing encounters comprise the first and last experiences patients will have with their provider, a negative interaction at any point during these encounters can color the patient's perception of the entire episode or care.
For example, typically, it takes weeks after a patient is discharged from the hospital to learn how much the patient will owe in out-of-pocket costs of care. Ideally, the hospital's patient financial services department would set expectations around when a bill will be received prior to the point of care so that the process is highly transparent and easy to understand. In a preferred scenario, providers also would seek to meet patients where they are by delivering communications in the patient's preferred format such as via text messaging, through conversations with a patient financial concierge (a single person dedicated to assisting the patient with navigating the financial process) or even with the help of an augmented reality billing app like that used by Banner Health, based in Phoenix.
Yet an Avadyne Health market study shows that when it comes to meeting patients' expectations for their financial experience of care, many healthcare organizations still have a long way to go. Just 9 percent of hospitals offer financial clearance outreach and only 27 percent offer payment plans to help patients navigate their out-of-pocket costs of care. More than half of health systems (55 percent) do not offer combined billing statements that reflect not just hospital charges, but also charges from the physician who provided care. And while providers are focusing on improving portals, progress is slow.
During the podcast interview with Gary David, I shared practical strategies for revamping the patient financial experience. I also discussed two new trends in healthcare revenue cycle that are elevating the patient financial experience: a focus on anticipatory customer service and the use of an augmented reality app to help patients navigate the medical billing process. Both are passion projects of mine.
I’d like to thank Gary for having me as a guest on his podcast and I'd be honored if you’d listen.