Patient Payments: How to Improve the Experience

Sep 1, 2020

Written by Hans Zandhuis

1. Avoid Patient Sticker Shock, Be Cost Transparent

Patient or consumer? In the healthcare marketplace, these terms are becoming increasingly synonymous. Now more than ever, patients are shopping around for their healthcare needs. Sixty-five percent of patients report that cost of care strongly influences their overall satisfaction with a physician or health system.

To accommodate these growing demands, some providers, in partnership with thought leader HFMA, are incorporating financial education processes into their patient payment experience. HFMA recently introduced their Healthcare Dollars & Sense program to give consumers' best practices, in turn helping them to  make better healthcare decisions. Healthcare Dollars & Sense has four components: price transparency, patient financial communications, medical debt resolution, and consumer education.

2. Tailor Your Payment Experience to the Patient

If faced with unexpected medical bills or their health insurance deductible, nearly half of Americans say they would struggle to pay them. According to Kaiser, in such situations, consumers find themselves putting off vacations or major household purchases (16 percent), cutting spending on household items (15 percent), using most of their savings (12 percent), taking an extra job or more hours (11 percent), increasing credit card debt (9 percent), borrowing money (8 percent), or removing money from long-term savings accounts (8 percent). How much more efficient and effective would your patient payment experience be for both you and your patient if you provided straightforward, digestible ways to pay for care over time?

Your patient payment model does not need to be one size fits most. Patient financial data can be leveraged to segment your patient universe by their propensity to pay, enabling you to offer individual patients the payment experience with the best possible outcome upfront. Whether it is offering traditional payment options or affordable financing or charity, you will collect funds faster and more efficiently while supporting upfront payment efforts.

3. Make Payments More Enticing at the Point of Care

Industry-wide it is no secret that the more funds collected before or at the point of care, the higher your rate of collection. However, improving in-office payment collection requires more than a simple payment ask. With the rise in patient consumerism, many providers are adopting retail-like technology solutions and practices to ensure an easy, pain-free payment process. Four in five providers have already invested in software and staff to support upfront payment efforts.

Alternative payment options are a necessity. In our modern climate, many patients – even those that are insured – are carrying a host of debt from student debt to credit card debt. Many find it difficult to pay for a healthcare expense on top of what they already owe. This is where budget-friendly financing options come into play. Offering incentives in the form of discounts or financing interest promotions help drive urgency and likelihood to pay.

4. Don’t Fall Behind Digitally

If you are not evolving your digital payment experience, you may be falling behind the patient payment curve. Seventy-one percent of consumers want to receive electronic statements from hospitals, doctors and other providers. Yet, according to a recent InstaMed study, only 17% of patients receive their medical bills online, which tells us there is an opportunity for many providers to up their digital game and give consumers a faster, easier way to pay.

In addition to meeting patient expectations, maintaining a modern digital experience also positively influences payment rates. Some companies have created cloud-based platforms to better engage patients and to address affordability with personalized paths to payment. Bottom line? Digestible information equals more payments.

5. Thwart Forgetfulness with Thoughtful Payment Reminders

With nearly 68 percent of patients failing to fully pay off medical bills in 2016 (expected to climb to 95 percent by the close of 2020), tardiness has become an epidemic. However, providers are in luck as experts believe additional payment avenues coupled with an increasingly digital payment experience will curb the trend against non-payment or tardiness.

Providers prioritizing payment collection utilize a reminder strategy that combines multiple communication channels, ranging from more cost-effective digital channels such as email or text messages, too costly traditional methods such as snail mail and phone calls.

Ally Lending offers lending solutions and financial insight, to help organizations drive efficiencies while transforming payments into a positive patient experience.

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