A new report outlined provider pitfalls when creating a positive consumer experience during patient payments.
The consumer experience and convenient patient payments are a considerable blind spot for healthcare organizations and payers, according to a new report from InstaMed.
The Trends in Healthcare Payments Ninth Annual Report revealed that an increasingly consumerized patient population is looking for more out of their payers and providers. As patients assume more financial responsibility for their care, they are looking for healthcare experiences that mirror their experiences in other retail spaces.
“Since this report was first published in 2011, the trends in healthcare payments have consistently shown consumers are paying more for their healthcare,” the report authors said in the executive summary. “In this edition of the report, consumer payment responsibility is again on the rise, but the impacts are reaching a fever pitch in the healthcare industry.”
Sixty-nine percent of healthcare providers said they saw an increase in patient responsibility in 2018 compared to 2017. The prevalence of high-deductible health plans likely spurred those out-of-pocket cost increases.
Currently, 85 percent of healthcare consumers were enrolled in an HDHP, up from 59 percent of consumers in 2011. The average deductible has also increased from $735 in 2011 to $1,573 in 2018.
As more patients engage with the healthcare revenue cycle, their experiences are coming up short of satisfactory. For one thing, the bills patients receive are convoluted and leave 70 percent of consumers confused.
Nearly all – 93 percent – of consumers were also surprised by a medical bill. Sixty-one percent of patients received a bill they did not believe would be so high, while 50 percent received bills they did not expect at all. A total of 24 percent of patients were sent to collections.
These findings indicate that the patient payment process is too complicated and not patient-centric. Healthcare organizations should consider increasing price transparency, digitizing convenient patient payments, and offering mobile bill pay to promote a better patient financial experience.
Eighty-eight percent of patients said they would be receptive to more price transparency conversations inside the medical practice, the report revealed. Eighty-one percent said they would like to access cost estimates online prior to a medical appointment.
Patients would also benefit from electronic billing, with 71 percent of patients saying they would prefer an eStatement. Currently, only 17 percent of patients said they receive an eStatement from their providers.
Another 86 percent of patients said they would like to pay their bills online, too, utilizing an online billing portal that would display charges and take patient payments.
When healthcare organizations do offer digital bill pay, they are using the media patients prefer. For example, mobile phone payments have the potential to engage the nearly 85 percent of consumers who use a smartphone, the report authors noted.
Currently, 29 percent of all online payments happen over a smartphone, a 65 percent increase since 2015.
But healthcare organizations nonetheless lag in supporting the patient financial experience, despite the fact that convenient payments can make or break an entire healthcare experience. Eighty percent of consumers said their loyalty to a practice hinges on different convenience factors, including bill pay.
Sixty-one percent said they would consider switching practices if a separate clinic promised convenient bill payments.
It would also benefit the provider bottom line to make patient payments more convenient, the report noted. Sixty-seven percent of providers say their biggest revenue cycle concerns are patient collections. And as patients face more financial responsibility, those liabilities are likely to persist or increase.
As patient payments become more prevalent, it will be essential for healthcare organizations to acknowledge the patient as a part of its operational priorities. This will require more patient-centric payment options that recognize the patient as a healthcare consumer, driving convenience and, ultimately, satisfaction.
“Very few consumers have been left unburdened by the increases in payment responsibility,” the report concluded. “The trends in healthcare payments show no signs of the increases slowing down. As the majority of consumers owe something for their medical visits and health plan premiums, consumer choice will be king – as it is in most other industries.”
Date: April 18, 2019