What blind spot?
Simply stated, the patient’s financial experience. With patients on the hook for higher deductibles, larger copays and growing out-of-pocket costs, many are more concerned about the cost of care than their health itself. This reality is affecting whether people seek care and their satisfaction with the experience when they do.
Depending on the research you subscribe to, including this study published by WestHealth earlier this year, anywhere from 44%-64% of covered Americans are avoiding care because of concerns about cost. Whether due to an inability to meet their high deductibles or uncertainly about how to afford treatment, more and more patients are foregoing care entirely. The consequences for longer-term health and cost outcomes can be dire – for patients and the providers that care for them.
Among those who do seek care, many cite dissatisfaction with a host of financial matters including: 1) The lack of pricing transparency to make informed decisions, 2) Little or no access to payment planning to improve the affordability of care, 3) Confusing, inconsistent billing and 4) Cumbersome payment processing. Alone and together, these points of friction in the patient’s financial experience have a detrimental effect on their overall care experience.
A problem for patients. A problem for providers.
Patients aren’t the only ones feeling the pain. Providers are impacted by rising patient balances, high collection costs (including patient bad debt) and frustrated population health initiatives. Additionally, we hear from staff and clinicians that financial matters contribute significantly to difficult patient encounters.
The patient financial experience is a phenomenon that can’t be ignored. It’s created a new and growing class of patients-as-consumers. Consumers who are looking for care and value they can afford. This emerging demand is opening the door for competitors with new, potentially disruptive, care delivery models. Loyale Healthcare CEO Kevin Fleming addresses this very issue in a recently published blog post and video titled Adapting to a Changing Healthcare Playing Field.
Providers now find themselves in a situation that didn’t exist when most of their revenue came from payers – that of having to compete for the business and loyalty of their patients. And they’re competing in an environment conditioned by their patients’ experiences with companies like Amazon, Apple and Zappos. Increasingly, the providers that meet these expectations are the ones that will thrive in healthcare’s consumer age.
Three ways to fix the patient experience blind spot
- Measure patients financial experience satisfaction. Most providers rely on HCAAHPS survey results as the definitive reflection of their patients’ satisfaction. But these clinically-focused metrics overlook the financial dimension of care. As with any important strategic objective, routine intelligence-gathering in the form of patient surveys and data analysis should be conducted to establish benchmarks and set goals.
- Innovate. Enlightened healthcare providers are making investments in technology and reengineering processes to illuminate the patient financial experience and continually identify and correct the gaps. These organizations are recognizing that the patient experience begins long before diagnosis and treatment and lasts ‘til well after. Consequently, they approach the challenge holistically, from end-to-end.
- Personalize. Unlike institutional payers, patient-payers behave in wildly different and difficult to predict ways. Using predictive analytics technology, it’s possible to segment patient populations using a wide variety of inputs to deliver financial experiences that are satisfying for patients and revenue-positive for providers.
The Patient Experience movement championed by The Beryl Institute, its members and other industry advocates is a critical catalyst for important and positive change. Let’s make the patient financial experience a part of the communication. Let’s fix the blind spot.
Dan Peterson, Chairman and Founder of Loyale Healthcare (2016), is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for solving seemingly intractable organizational challenges with user-centered digital solutions. Previous ventures include CashNet (1990), a financial platform serving complex, multi-facility environments in higher education and ePAY Healthcare (2010), a pioneer in the development of online patient and provider experiences to improve patient service and provider financial outcomes. Mr. Peterson continues to serve on a number of technology company boards and is a sought-after authority on technology and innovation.