Benefits of Technology in Healthcare
The expectations of patients have transformed over the past decade, as people expect more convenient and personalized experiences. Patients can order products and receive them within hours, get their favorite foods delivered to the doorstop on demand, and use a wide variety of other personalized, on-demand services.
These expectations carry over into what patients expect from their medical practice. Over half of patients (51%) report they would change their healthcare system to have a better experience. Research shows that most medical practices (63%) say they’re delivering on patient care, but only 43% of patients agree.
Delivering these experiences, however, requires the right tools, and only 30% of medical practices report implementing technologies related to patient experience. This creates a critical gap between what the patient expects and what the practice is delivering.
Evolving healthcare technologies are empowering organizations to better align with patient expectations. But what are the major areas where technology can make a difference, and what is the potential impact on your bottom line?
Understanding the benefits of technology
Technology provides a variety of benefits, including the ability to provide more engaging patient care and the ability to speed up healthcare payment solutions. These tools also create a foundation for starting important conversations with patients, such as how they will pay for care. A few of the benefits and considerations include the following.
Greater access to care is provided. Almost half (44%) of Americans skip doctor visits due to the cost, and 43% of patients have high-deductible insurance plans. People are worried about the cost of care. Innovative technologies can provide tools to start conversations on the cost of care early and provide resources like flexible payment plans to close any gaps.
A more transparent experience is delivered. Transparency is a critical demand for today’s patients. Most patients (91%) want the cost of medical services to be presented as clearly as the prices on their restaurant menu. Technology enables this communication through more accurate estimation tools and the ability to show upfront costs. As a result, practices collect more payments at the time of service, and patients can set up payment plans when needed.
Services are paid for faster. Over half of Americans (56%) reported making a mobile payment in the past year. Trends in healthcare payments include people wanting to use the same technologies in other areas of their lives at their medical practice. For example, a practice can send a bill and mobile payment options at the time of service, allowing the patient to quickly pay his or her bill via smartphone or tablet.
Workflow is improved. Staff time is valuable, and technology allows practices to recapture more of that time. It can enable streamlined communication with patients and allow practices to present transparent cost details before the visit, while offering fast, easy payment options at the time of service. The office can follow up with personalized payment plans after the visit.
Greater efficiency is achieved. Cash flow is the number one challenge for 70% of medical practices. Utilizing technology can speed up payment cycles by collecting balances through mobile technologies and setting up payment plans when necessary. It not only enables practices to get paid faster, but it also delivers the experience that patients expect from their doctors.
Patient engagement and technology
Most doctors (70%) say that patient engagement is a top priority at their practices; however, studies show that on average only 34% of their patients are engaged. The right technology can help you build a stronger practice and nurture patient relationships more effectively.
For example, when a patient visits your office, he or she may decide not to sign up for a payment plan. But circumstances might change, and the patient may now be having a hard time paying the bill. A practice with digital solutions in place for ongoing engagement can present useful information after the visit. An option would be to send the patient a friendly reminder on an overdue balance, along with personalized and flexible payment plans that can be set up from their mobile device.
Technologies that support patient engagement in your practice can assist with the following:
- Reduce the number of billing-related calls with a simplified system that offers the patient greater transparency and gives patients answers to many of their questions.
- Minimizes patient frustrations by streamlining payment options.
- Provides the ability to put payment plans on “autopilot,” which frees up time so staff can focus on tasks other than collection efforts.
An effective patient engagement solution is also focused on the patient’s preferences. Does the patient prefer to communicate via text messaging or by speaking with a live person? The technology should enable automated tasks and proactively deliver specific messaging at critical touch points throughout the patient journey to increase engagement and cut back on staff phone calls.
What to look for in a solution
When selecting a solution, focus on major elements such as patient engagement and speeding up cash flow. How will the technology increase the number of payments flowing into your practice? Does the technology increase payments in a way that elevates the patient experience? The key is to select a complete solution that addresses critical areas of the practice, including patient payments, patient engagement, payment plans, and cost estimation. Consider a solution that incorporates the following options.
Patient payments. Paying for services should be fast and easy. Most patients (79%) are more likely to select a provider who allows them to complete interactions online or through a mobile device. Automatic payment technology, such as “card on file” services, allows patients to store and easily pay balances after receiving an insurance payment.
“On the go” technology, allows patients to pay bills anytime through smartphones or tablets. A customized branded portal, which gives people the ability to pay their bills and view statement details 24/7, is also an important aspect.
Patient financing. Patients need a simple way to set up a payment plan if they can’t afford to make a lump-sum payment at the time of service. Financing options allow this convenience; however, not all plans are created equal. Select a plan that is available to 100% of patients and doesn’t disqualify anyone due to credit challenges. A solution that allows you to sell patient receivables and get paid upfront is helpful if you need to improve cash flow in your practice.
Patient engagement. A technology solution should be carefully designed to nurture patient relationships at critical touch points throughout the patient journey. The technology should automatically reach out and communicate with patients during critical times, such as when a payment is late, and provide helpful financing options. Communicating with patients using the channels that are most likely to capture attention is key. Text messages have a 98% open rate, which creates a powerful communication platform, especially in the area of payments.
Cost estimation. Since patients are paying a greater portion of their bill, they want a more transparent cost experience. In the past, when a patient had a co-payment, they were less concerned with the total cost of care. However, with so many patients having high-deductible insurance plans and paying the full cost of care until that deductible is met, people want more transparency. Select a total solution that includes more-accurate estimation tools. This will provide patients with an upfront, accurate estimate, and you can start having the discussion about how the patient plans to pay for care.
Moving forward with the right solution
Medical practices are genuinely concerned with the health of their patients and want to create experiences that support better health and positive interactions. Implementing the right technologies enables these experiences and allows healthcare organizations to improve engagement, make patients happier, and generate healthier and more predictable cash flow.
Selecting technologies that support your overall goals while adding to the patient experience is key to success. As a result, you will create deeper and more meaningful relationships with patients and your practice will be positioned to thrive in the future.