What Qualities Does a Good Healthcare Provider Possess?
Patients are finding it harder to pay medical bills, which leaves practices having to chase outstanding debt. A recent report found that 68% of patients failed to pay off medical balances; up from 53% in 2016 and 49% in 2014. The study also discovered almost half of Americans have trouble paying for a medical bill of $100 or more without going into debt.
As patients struggle to pay their medical bills, practices are under increased pressure to enhance their customer service experience. Expectations around patient care are undergoing transformation, and people expect the same easy experiences they receive with online shopping, ordering food, and other consumer-driven interactions.
Fortunately, practices can make a few changes in the customer experience to help patients pay for bills while also providing more engaging and frictionless experiences. Read on to understand what qualities are critical to thrive in the future.
Take an empathetic approach to patient cost concerns by using innovative tools
Americans are spending an increased amount of money on healthcare because of steadily increasing costs in recent years. High insurance premiums, larger deductibles and bigger co-pays are just a few of the higher costs that patients pay. Americans now spend over twice as much on healthcare as they did in the 1980s. The average person spends about $5,000 annually per person on healthcare. This is a 101% increase from the $2,500 spent per person during 1984, once dollar amounts are adjusted for inflation.
Another issue on top of this challenge is the fact that more patients have a high-deductible insurance plan. Enrollment in high-deductible insurance plans grew from about 4% of those insured in 2007 to nearly 19% during 2017. A patient with a high-deductible insurance plan is paying a greater portion of their bill, which means they are more invested in the cost of service. This is why providing an accurate and upfront estimate is key.
There are many reasons people don’t pay their healthcare bills; among them are they believe the cost is inaccurate or their insurance company should have paid more. When you provide an upfront estimate, you can reduce the risk of late payments and bad debt by helping patients understand their responsibility before in-person or telehealth services are rendered. For example, ClearGage’s patient estimate tool gives patients greater visibility and allows them to enroll in practice-approved payment plans. This program also helps to:
- Calculate out-of-pocket costs using data from patients’ benefit plans.
- Empower staff to ask for payments with credible and accurate cost estimates.
- Increase payments at the time of service, which raises cash flow and reduces risk of bad debt.
More transparency about medical billing costs helps you build stronger, more meaningful relationships with your patients. And it also helps them make better decisions about paying for the cost of care. One tool that you can provide to further enhance the relationship is flexible financing.
Provide flexible financing options
Patient financing is a critical component of getting your patients the healthcare they need. A new study showed that 37% of patients would forgo treatment without the availability of a patient financing program.
Giving patients the resources they need helps forge stronger relationships and repeat visits. A study found that a patient who returns to a healthcare facility within 18 months generates six times the revenue of the initial visit. A few more benefits of technology in healthcare include:
- Minimizing treatment delays. Patients can move forward with the treatment they need right away without the worry of how they will afford care.
- Helping patients manage out-of-pocket expenses. Patient financing can prevent patients from placing a large balance on their credit cards and instead choose a financing option that fits their individual budgets.
- Increasing practice efficiency. Partnering with a patient-financing provider allows you to receive payments faster and frees up internal staff to focus on other tasks.
- Improving cash flow. Using a program that allows you to receive upfront payment on receivables allows you to get paid right away.
Working with a partner is also valuable because it allows you to offload the credit risks associated with administering patient financing in-house. When your practice becomes “the lender,” you open yourself up to risks such as delayed payments, bad debt, and accounts that go uncollected.
Provide payment flexibility to improve the experience
People are using digital payments in all aspects of their lives, including when they shop online or order food deliveries, curbside grocery pickup, and more. People want that same level of convenience from their local doctor, especially since patients are paying a larger portion of their healthcare bill.
A large percentage of Americans (20%) have chronic health conditions. These conditions drive people to visit their providers more often to receive ongoing treatment and care. At the same time, 67% of shoppers reported they want self-checkout options from mobile devices. Consider following the trends in healthcare payments by offering your patients the following to enhance their experience and become their healthcare provider of choice:
- Auto payments. Leaving a “card on file” isn’t anything new, but many patients prefer this experience in the healthcare space as well. For example, ClearGage offers AutoPay, which allows you to securely store your patient’s payment information for future use. Autopay schedules the payment based on the preauthorized patient agreement. Patients are notified through text or email prior to the payment to ensure that funds are available.
- Faster payment technology. Most patients aren’t more than an arm’s reach from their smartphone most hours of the day. Increasingly, using this device is how they want to pay for services. Consider allowing people to pay using their mobile device. For example, QuickPay allows you to send a customized text to pay or email message with a link to a mobile-friendly solution where patients can pay now or enroll in a payment plan.
- Offer an online payment portal. Receiving a paper statement is perceived as inconvenient by many patients. People live in a hyper-connected world, and they expect the ability to pay balances on their schedule. Consider offering an online payment portal.
Medical expenses are a major concern for your patients, which is why it’s important to implement tools and technologies, such as contactless check out, to help them better manage those expenses. The result is a more convenient and engaging experience that will help you grow your practice.
Focus on patient engagement
A vital quality that healthcare industry providers need in order to thrive is patient engagement. Patients have no shortage of options for meeting their healthcare needs, and practices can improve their appeal by offering a more engaging experience. A few points for your healthcare organization to consider include:
- Positive patient engagement may increase the efficiency of your treatments, according to a Stanford University study.
- Focusing on patient engagement is far less costly than patient acquisition. Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing one. What’s more is that increasing customer retention by as little as 5% can increase profits from 25% to 95%.
- Patient satisfaction helps build your reputation and generates referrals. Patients are much more likely to tell friends and family and leave positive online reviews when you create more meaningful experiences.
The challenge with engagement, however, is that practices want to improve this area without placing a heavy burden on their already busy staff. A patient engagement platform is the answer, as they are designed to help you strategically nurture relationships at critical touchpoints along the patient journey. Imagine that a patient has trouble affording their medical bill. You gave them an accurate estimate upfront, so they know the amount due is correct; but with a high-deductible insurance plan, they simply don’t have the funds.
A patient engagement platform allows you to send helpful emails at critical points in time, such as this one, reminding the patient that flexible and personalized financing programs are available. This technology allows you to automate engagement, freeing your staff to focus on other meaningful tasks.
Moving into the future
The future of patient care will increasingly be about providing positive experiences. It’s not only about providing excellent care, which is central to any patient experience; it’s also about the interactions that surround that care. When your practice implements innovative solutions that take into consideration patient satisfaction from start to finish, you will be positioned for repeat business and positive word-of-mouth marketing.
As a result, patients will know they can visit your practice and receive the care they need and also be supported with the tools required to easily pay for that care or get financial assistance if needed.