Steps to Improving Patient Experience with Flexible Financing
The demands of patients are rapidly changing, and they expect more seamless and simplified experiences that replicate what they receive in other areas of their lives. Research found that 81% of people are unsatisfied with their health care experience. What’s more is that while 63% of practices believe they are delivering on patient care, only 43% of patients agree.
Customers have become accustomed to “on demand” and personalized customer experiences, and they are willing to make a change if their current practice under delivers. Over half of patients (51%) said they would change health care providers for a better patient experience.
So how can you improve the patient experience?
Patient financing is a powerful tool that enables you to meet customers where they’re at financially and provide the resources they need to pay medical bills. When you offer enhanced patient financing, you can quickly increase referrals and loyalty while collecting payments faster and helping your practice grow.
Open the door to more patients
Research shows that approximately 137 million Americans struggled with financial hardship last year due to medical costs. Additionally, the high cost of health care bills is a top reason that people consider pulling money from retirement accounts or filing for bankruptcy. This is supported by the fact that many Americans (40%) struggle to come up with $400 for an unexpected expense. Flexible financing is a resource that helps open your doors to more patients who didn’t think they could afford to visit your practice.
For example, an estimated one in four Americans skips medical care due to fears around the cost. Flexible financing allows you to have a conversation upfront about the cost of care and partner with patients to create a personalized plan that works with their budget and makes their bills more affordable on an incremental basis.
Being helpful regarding one of the patient’s largest pain points will naturally promote more referrals and positive word of mouth. Data shows that when people are referred by a friend or family member, they’re on average 18% more loyal than non-referred patients. A positive experience can help drive referrals, and referrals can assist with improving loyalty, which ultimately boosts your share of the market.
Start out right with estimation
As customer expectations shift, more patients expect to understand the cost of care upfront. Patients want more transparency regarding the cost of care and more options to pay for services. For example, a survey showed that customers say medical prices are a large priority, with 91% reporting that the “costs for medical services should be as readily available as the prices on a restaurant menu.”
Confusion during the early stages can result in slow payments and even bad debt. A McKinsey study found that 74% of patients who are insured are willing and able to pay out-of-pocket expenses up to $1,000 during a single year. So why aren’t they paying? Top reasons include the following:
- The patient doesn’t realize the bill has arrived. Many medical practices are still mailing paper statements; however, the way in which people pay bills is changing. Younger generations, for example, don’t check their mailboxes as frequently as in the past. In comparison, millennials check their smartphones an average of 150 times a day. Sending patients communication using the technology they prefer and giving them the option of setting up a payment plan are useful tools for collecting payments faster.
- The patient is confused by the bill. Patients are hesitant to pay a medical bill when it doesn’t make sense or when they question the amount owed. As a result, the bill might be placed on the “to do” pile for when the patient has time to call with questions. In contrast, when you talk about costs upfront and set financial expectations, the patient won’t be confused when receiving the bill.
- The patient isn’t offered enough payment options or can’t afford to pay the bill in a single payment. In today’s world of high-deductible insurance plans, people are responsible for a larger portion of their health care bills. Giving patients personalized and flexible payment options helps you get paid faster and improve the patient experience.
When you proactively address cost concerns, you can avoid late payments and bad debt risk in the future while improving the overall patient experience. Prior to the visit, explain what the insurance company will pay, and consider asking for payment at the time of service. If the patient is worried about the cost, you can start having the conversation about flexible payment plans, which mitigates collection trouble in the future.
Streamline payment options
The way that patients pay for services is changing. They can use “card on file” technology to quickly make online purchases, order food and even pick up groceries. And they expect these “easy transactions” from their health care providers. However, few practices are delivering on these expectations, which allows you to stand out and capture more of the market share. A common misconception about online patient payments is offering a payment plan may create more work for staff. However, having the ability to offer flexible financing options through a trusted partner will help offload many time-consuming tasks and free up staffload to focus on other tasks.
Sending payment options directly to the patient’s smartphone will also help elevate customer expectations. Once patients receive the text or email, they can quickly pay the balance on their smartphone. Or, if they can’t pay the balance at one time, they can set up payment options. It’s also important to continue communicating with patients even after the visit has ended with strategically timed communication.
The patient who hasn’t paid a bill in full yet may be struggling financially and need a reminder that there are flexible, personalized payment options. Once the bill is late, you can send a strategically timed message, reminding the patient of this option and providing a link to quickly set up a customized payment plan.
Get paid faster and increase revenue
Patients are finding it harder to pay off medical balances, and that’s forcing practices to chase late payments and bad debt. A recent report showed that 68% of patients failed to pay off medical bill balances, up from 53% in 2016 and 49% during 2014. The survey also found that nearly half of Americans (47%) said it would be difficult to pay for an unexpected medical bill of $100 or more without going into debt.
The result is that more practices struggle with issues around collecting outstanding payments. Most practices (54%) said that 3% to 9% of their accounts go into bad debt, which adds up quickly. Recovering this debt can take many months, and in the meantime, you’ve lost cash flow that could be used for new equipment, investments in technology, office improvements and other needed updates. Plus, it also involves the waste of staff time spent chasing bad debt.
Empowering patients through personalized and flexible payment plans helps you increase revenue and get paid faster. For example, some plans will allow you to sell receivables, which quickly improves cash flow. Consider a partner that opens up plans to 100% of patients, regardless of credit challenges. This allows you to extend financing options to all your patients and improves the experience for those who might be going through financial difficulty.
Enhance the patient experience into the future
Most practices want to deliver more positive patient interactions, but only 30% of health care organizations have reported implementing technologies or practices around customer service. Putting in place the right tools, such as patient financing, is an effective way to help patients manage rising out-of-pocket expenses and get the care they require. However, not all plans are created equal. Select a plan that is created with the patient experience in mind.
For example, can patients receive invoices on their smartphones and tablets and easily pay those balances using the technology they already know and enjoy? Can they set up a payment plan on those same devices with a few easy clicks? Today’s patient experience is all about taking the friction out of the experience and making interactions more seamless.
Additionally, when patients know they have the option of setting up easy and flexible payment plans, they are less likely to skip care due to the fear of “How will I pay for it?” As a result, patients will continue getting the care they require, and you can help them stay healthy, with fewer worries about costs.