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Why the Billing Experience Matters to Patients

Posted By Tomer Shoval, Friday, April 17, 2015
Updated: Thursday, April 16, 2015

Improving the patient experience tops the list of strategic priorities for many healthcare organizations. However, that attention often results in improvements to clinical care or to remodeled patient rooms.

What’s often overlooked is a hospital’s billing and revenue cycle.

With rising patient financial responsibility, people are bringing an empowered sense of "consumerism” to healthcare. Someone facing a significant medical bill is more likely to have high expectations for that experience. And this same person likely loves Amazon’s 1-Click checkout. They expect their hospital to not only be on the cutting edge of medical care, but also deliver a simple, easy-to-read medical bill that they can pay as easily as they do other bills.

Many studies have demonstrated that a patient’s payment experience colors their overall feelings about a hospital stay. As in retail, customer satisfaction is vital as patients begin to exercise greater choice, both in how much to pay and where to go next time. As they say, the last impression is a lasting one.

How to solve this problem? Many innovative providers are already rethinking the role of revenue cycle in overall patient engagement strategies, and are building a blueprint for the rest of the industry. They have discovered that a positive billing and payments experience can impact patient satisfaction and loyalty as well as reduce costs and raise revenue.

Here are three ways that hospitals can empower healthcare consumers through their patient revenue cycle.

Mimic consumer strategies. Online and self-service are mainstream in key industries such as retail, banking, and travel. 58% of consumers prefer self-service banking and 69% prefer to pay their energy bills online. Given the choice of greater transparency and convenience, people will choose self-service—and healthcare billing and payment options should mirror these trends.

Integrate your billing and payment experience. Challenge the traditional view of patient billing by incorporating a modern, clean, jargon-free design focused on driving patients to your website. ValleyCare Health System increased online payments by 2.5X and completely eliminated their early-out collections within 4 months of revamping their self-service payment options.

Optimize for self-service. Can patients quickly and easily find your website and pay their bill online? More the the point, ensure a clear call-to-action on your homepage to capture the inbound flow of patients seeking to make a payment. And once they’re ready to pay, make sure the payment flow is fast, easy, and secure.

Pioneering healthcare leaders are redefining medical billing by engaging their patients as consumers. If you build a system that empowers patients, your patient revenue cycle can quickly become a strategic advantage resulting in happier patients, higher collections, and lower costs.

Tomer Shoval is CEO and a Co-founder of Simplee. A veteran e-commerce leader, Tomer is a frequent speaker on the intersection of healthcare, technology, and consumers. He founded Simplee as a way to help people better understand and manage their healthcare bills.

Tags:  Hospitals  patient billing  patient engagement  patient experience  revenue cycle 

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Understanding the Totality of the Patient Experience through Total Quality Encounters

Posted By Paul Roemer, Monday, January 27, 2014
Updated: Saturday, January 25, 2014

Point One. New College, Oxford, was founded in 1379, hundreds of years prior to the invention of the I-Beam. As a result, the roof of the main dining hall is supported by big oak beams, two feet square and forty-five feet long.

About 100 years ago, entomologists were studying the beams and noted that they were infested with beetles, a problem which had eroded the integrity of the roof. Unfortunately for the college it was believed that all of the large trees from the old-growth forests had long since fallen.

As luck would have it, the college owned a great deal of land and actually employed its own forester. When the college asked their Forester about whether he knew of any large trees, the Forester replied, "I was wondering when you’d come asking.” It was discovered that when the college was founded, a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the beams in the dining hall when they became beetle-infested. This information had been passed down from forester to forester for more than 500 years.

Long term planning: Planning that involved the exact solution, not a series of ad-hoc fixes year-in and year-out.

Point Two. Heliocentric versus geocentric. Heliocentric—the planets revolved around the sun. Geocentric—the earth was the center of the universe and everything revolved around it. Copernicus. Early astronomer, pretty smart guy—he got it right.

Point Three. Patient experience. The hospital is the center of the universe and the patients revolve around it. Where is Copernicus when we need him? What about a patient-centric model?

Four out of five hospitals do not have a patient experience strategy. Of those 20 percent that do, most, if not all of them, do not include anything outside of HCAHPS.

There are several fatal flaws with the hospital-centric model of patient experience. Improving HCAHPS scores is not the same thing as improving patient experience. One strategy involves improving a set of numbers, the other involves improving experiences.

Here are the flaws around what most hospitals are doing:

The experiences of outpatients are ignored—surveying them doesn’t count; we already established that with HCAHPS.
The experiences of all prospective patients - the largest group of stakeholders - are ignored. Definition of Prospective Patients—everyone who has ever been to your web site, called the hospital, parked in the garage, eaten in the cafeteria and driven past the billboard advertising the hospital’s urology practice.

The hospital-centric patient experience model requires hospitals to try to apply a fix for every patient experience, patient by patient, day after day. One hospital fixing thousands of patients’ experiences. Shampoo, rinse, repeat. Since the patient is no longer classified as a patient when the fix is applied, whose experience is the hospital attempting to fix?

The patient-centric model of patient experience centers around one patient, one person. It is designed, planned and thought through. A patient, like a customer, should be able to carry the hospital around on their iPad. That person should be able to accomplish everything they need to with the hospital, with the possible exception of a hip replacement, the same way they can accomplish everything they need to with Amazon.

The following graphic shows the lifecycle of someone’s experience with a hospital. The most noteworthy aspect of the graphic is that only the green circle represents a person’s time in the hospital. The blue circles represent all of the other interactions someone has with the hospital.

Patients only spend a small fraction of their time in the hospital. Hospitals only spend a fraction of their time understanding the totality of someone’s experience.

Since most hospitals do not have a working definition of patient experience, I like to use this definition: TQE—the Total Quality of a person’s Encounter with the hospital is equal to the sum of their HCAHPS scores plus all of the nonclinical patient touch points. This definition parallels The Beryl Institute’s definition of the patient experience – the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care. Using these definitions as guides in their own organizations enables healthcare leaders to truly keep the patient at the center of their universe.

A remarkable experience happens for every person, every time, on every device.

Paul Roemer
Vice President
Tower Strategies

Tags:  Customer Service  defining patient experience  HCAHPS  healthcare  Hospitals  Patient Experience  patients 

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