Healthcare is becoming increasingly consumer-centric. There’s no secret there. As such, healthcare organizations must now create a consumerism strategy that highlights price transparency to improve patient experience and accelerate cash. But that’s not all. Your strategy must demonstrate that you actually care.
Price transparency itself is not a goal. Rather, it’s a means toward multiple goals for your patients and your bottom line, like avoiding sticker shock, facilitating shopping, and lifting the veil on high prices. Only after achieving these goals geared towards a better financial experience can you achieve your other goal: actually getting paid.
Patient-geared steps you must take before you can achieve your end-goal:
1. Do right by your patients. In a recent survey, almost two-thirds of patients reported that there is not enough information regarding the cost of medical services before the time of service. Providing patients with an accurate out-of-pocket cost before they get care helps them prepare for its financial impact. No more, “surprise you owe this much!”
Accurately estimating out-of-pocket costs and having pre-service financial discussions to answer your patient’s questions puts you one step ahead of your competitors and one step closer to accelerating your cash.
You read that right. Having pre-service financial discussions accelerates your cash.
When a patient is notified of their portion of the bill upfront, they’re more likely to take the steps they need to find the money to pay prior to service. And when patients pay a portion of their balance pre-service, they are more likely to pay the remainder of the bill. That’s why it’s so important to determine and share the price of the patient encounter before the day of service.
2. Facilitate shopping around. While 70% of patients would like to discuss costs with their providers, only 28% of them said doctors or their staff brought up a price conversation with them prior to service. Those are disappointing numbers, to say the least.
Increasing consumerism is a factor driving price transparency. Plain and simple. Under the consumerism model, patients are expecting to compare prices and quality between organizations. But the use of price transparency tools is not yet common enough to affect overall healthcare spending.
So how can you help? Make your pricing tools more easily accessible and user-friendly. Don’t have any of these tools set in place, yet? Get some.
Price shopping impacts patient decisions about where to receive their care. If you have tools in place to ensure that your prices are readily available and accessible to patients pre-service, they are more likely to perceive your organization as trustworthy and transparent, the number one factor in consumer loyalty.
3. Ensure your patients can (and will) pay for the care you provide. According to a recent Becker’s article, 70% of patients are more likely to pay a bill if they receive a cost estimate on or before the date of service, while only 20% of provider organizations indicate they have the infrastructure to meet this experience. Which doesn’t balance out well with the fact that about half of the public, regardless of socioeconomic status or health, say they are either “very worried” or “somewhat worried” about being able to afford unexpected medical bills or their health insurance deductible.
And with good reason. In 2014, nearly 20% of consumers had unpaid healthcare bills. That’s why patient financial profiles and pre-service discussions are so important.
Propensity to Pay, a tool often used in banking to help determine where to focus resources, is now becoming more used in healthcare. And while it requires lots of historic claims data to achieve accurate scoring and segmentation, after implementation, it can help you facilitate a discussion with patients to calculate a way to pay.
A high propensity to pay result may mean an earlier, pre-service payment discussion with the patient to accelerate collection of cash, while a lower score may lead to a discussion of a payment plan option.
Financial Aid Determination can also help with focusing payment discussions. It uses consumer data to determine a patient’s Federal Poverty Level (FPL) percentage to determine if your organization should have a charity application or a screening discussion with said patient.
As people continue to shop around for the best healthcare experience, healthcare organizations must continually and consciously strive to ensure that they are at the top of consumers’ lists. And to make sure that happens, you must provide your patients with information. All of it.
While it’s true that healthcare pricing is more available now than in previous years, much of it is hard for the average patient to understand and use. By coming forward about prices, cost estimates, and other financial information, you can proactively steer your patients to helpful information, and give your organization an edge over your competitors.
And with clear information about how much they will actually owe before their visit, your patients are even more likely to actually pay you. In full.