Today, the role of patients as payors has changed – making them a larger piece of the puzzle from a financial perspective and creating the need for a renewed focus on patient engagement. The number of patients with high deductible healthcare plans has grown rapidly over the past four or five years. Fast forward to today, those plans have become the norm as more employers move in this direction. As a result, the amounts due from patients makes up a greater proportion of the total practice revenue. The shift to greater patient burden in paying for healthcare access and delivery calls for fresh solutions in technology, infrastructure and mind-set to ensure a healthy financial experience for both patient and provider.
Better patient experience and engagement is where we are headed. It’s our responsibility as healthcare companies to enable patients to become better consumers of healthcare. The new dynamic calls for innovative solutions. We, at NextGen Healthcare, have been focusing on developing and delivering such solutions to our customers.
Recent research shows that patient’s overall satisfaction with a physician practice is inexplicably tied to their financial experience. Practices are simply not delivering a satisfactory financial experience to patients. The fact that nearly three out of four patients are confused by their healthcare bill should signal a glaring need to fix the system.
Creating a patient-centric revenue cycle that begins and ends with the patient and offers an easy-to-navigate platform that they want (and deserve) will enrich the patient experience, improve patient collections and create a more profitable practice. Making this reality includes the following key elements:
- Early education, transparency and trust
- Patients prefer to understand their overall financial obligations prior to going to an appointment and engaging them ahead of their doctor appointment is critically important. When your patients reach out to make an appointment, explain your process for payments and the tools you have available to help them.
- Communicate with your patients about payments as early as possible as they are not familiar with the complexity of the Revenue Practice Cycle. They want to trust the bill they get. Education, transparency and trust will make it make it easier for them – and ultimately lead to loyalty.
- Transparent communication will accelerate on-time and in-full payments, and allow a greater focus on what’s important – their health.
- Upfront, efficient processes
- Healthcare companies should move the costs conversation up front. With higher deductible healthcare plans, patients have greater financial responsibilities and are expected to pay more out of pocket – this might require patients to do an in-depth budget planning in advance of visiting a healthcare provider.
- Healthcare providers should focus on upfront collections and invest in newer technologies to encourage patients to pay their bills on time and in full.
- We have to meet patients where they want to be met as it is related to how they want to pay their bills – there are plenty of different avenues a healthcare company can use, from mobile applications, online patient portals, phone calls, email or regular mail.
- Flexibility and convenience
- Go beyond the clipboard and endless paper at your office. Utilize easily accessible technology (e.g., a website, patient portal) to allow patients to fill out paper work, including medical history, prior to their visit. Make it easy and comfortable for your patients.
- Understand the need to be flexible; some patients prefer the online experience, while some may want phone or face-to-face conversations.
- Convenience factors are linked to patient satisfaction when it comes to the financial experience. Provide convenient and secure, payment options – credit card on file, online portal access, mobile payment accessibility and auto payment.
- Deliver clear and concise statements to streamline the payment process, ultimately eliminating confusion around healthcare bills.
- Make sure your patients understand their payment responsibilities when there is a balance due as patients who don’t understand a bill are unlikely to pay.
- Statements/medical bills should be personalized and timely. Many practices aim to provide personalized communication and high-touch care, yet don’t tailor their patient outreach.
Engaging patients financially doesn’t mean just sending them a bill and hoping they will pay. Patient engagement is about relationship building so patients are more likely to visit the same practice in the future. When providers offer multiple avenues of communication – and communicate early and often – the patient experience will improve, and the end benefit will be a stronger and more financially sound practice.
Learn how the NextGen patient engagement platforms create financial visibility payment ease and payment use for patients, and provide convenience using our right practice management (PM) software integration tools. Tune in to our upcoming October 18th webinar, “Creating the Perfect Paying Patient” to hear how to develop and cultivate long-lasting patient engagement platforms.
 InstaMed Trends in Healthcare Payments Annual Report, 2016
 NextGen Healthcare. (Producer). (2017, March 20). Five Ways to Improve the Patient Financial Experience [Video webinar]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMmuKbz8ZIA&feature=youtu.be