A medical practice’s primary concern is serving its patients. You want to help patients that need care and ensure that they stay happy and healthy. But the reality is that many Americans aren’t seeking care because they can’t afford it. A recent poll showed that 54 percent of Americans said they’ve delayed care for themselves over the past year due to cost, and another 23 percent delayed care for over a year for the same reason. So how can you help more individuals get the healthcare they need?
One approach is to offer specialized tools that lessen the financial burden on patients. Rolling out resources such as third-party payment plans help people get access to the medical care they need now – without the worry of how to pay. Implementing these tools also provides stability and financial security for your practice.
Why Patients Are Stressed Out and Worried
Doctors know that stress is a contributor to a variety of health issues and that lowering stress is important to maintaining good health and well-being. Last year, Americans reported experiencing stress, anger and worry at the highest levels in a decade, according to a new Gallup poll.
The cost of healthcare is on the rise, with U.S. healthcare costs estimated at $3.5 trillion annually, which makes healthcare one of the country’s largest industries. In comparison, healthcare costs added up to only $27.2 billion in 1960.
More of your patients have high-deductible health insurance plans that leave them paying a greater portion of the bill. This becomes problematic when the patient can’t afford to meet their deductible. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that fewer than 63 percent of non-elderly households with incomes above the federal poverty level have enough liquid assets to pay a $1,200 deductible for an individual.
Giving patients the tools required to help manage rising out-of-pocket expenses empowers them to pay bills on their terms. At the same time, your practice benefits from building stronger relationships with patients who feel supported by your practice.
Reaping a Dual Benefit For Patient and Practice
Patient financing is closing a critical gap between the cost of healthcare and what people can afford to pay. Financing plans come in all shapes and sizes, but the critical thing to remember is that a plan must be flexible enough to meet the diverse needs of patients. Plans should be inclusive and include the highest approval rate possible.
For example, imagine that a patient has recently lost her job and went through a foreclosure and bankruptcy. At the same time, her health has taken a turn for the worse – and so has her credit score. A lower credit score means that she has difficulty getting affordable financing options. If you can partner with a patient financing program that has a 100 percent approval rate, this patient can get the medical care she needs through a flexible payment plan.
In the past, you might have had an internal financing option available, but you didn’t charge interest on balances and held all the risk. The upside is that you’re helping the patient get access to care, but the downside is that you’re exposed to bad debt risk. This can hinder your practice’s growth and get in the way of you helping even more patients. Working with a third-party payment provider allows you to better serve your patients while at the same time mitigating risk and getting paid faster.
How Patient Financing Works
Patient financing gets rid of the risks associated with running an internal payment plan program in-house. You simply let the patient know the solution is available and get them set up with the tools to personalize a patient payment plan based on their situation.
Ideally, you want to partner with a third-party partner that integrates with the technologies that patients are already using, such as smartphones. For example, a solution might allow you to send a customized text or email message to patients. They are presented with the option to pay now or enroll in a payment plan.
Take for example a situation where the patient has a high-deductible insurance plan. He or she has a $6,000 deductible and owes the practice $1,000. Since the insurance deductible isn’t met, the patient must pay the full amount. This bill will be overwhelming to many patients, especially since many Americans (40 percent) can’t cover a $400 emergency expense.
A patient financing program allows the patient to easily set up a personalized payment plan and pay the bill on their terms. Depending on the partner you select, you may have the option of receiving the funding on the plan upfront, which greatly increases cash flow.
How Patient Financing Supports Growth
Patient loyalty is a critical factor in your practice. Building that loyalty is getting tougher in today’s environment, where expectations of all businesses, including healthcare practices, are rising. In a recent study, 82 percent of consumers said that healthcare organizations should consistently meet or exceed their expectations. And when these demands aren’t met, patients are quick to switch providers and select other healthcare choices.
In fact, 7 percent of customers have switched healthcare providers due to a subpar experience, which adds up to large amounts of revenue. According to another report, 81 percent of customers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience. A large point of dissatisfaction is the rising cost of healthcare. People want a streamlined experience with a payment process that is simplified. A few things to consider when building loyalty include:
Create an easy and exceptional experience. Allow customers to quickly set up payment plans and view the progress of those plans through technologies that they already use and enjoy, such as smartphones, tablets, and online portals.
Provide a professional and compassionate experience. A payment plan is an extension of your practice and should deliver the same professionalism and commitment to care as your business.
Improved tools and resource access. Make sure it’s simple to set up a payment plan without the worry of filling out paper documents or having to deal with a cumbersome process. Most people want to set up plans online or through their devices. In addition, offer an option that provides 100 percent approval rates on all patients.
Building loyalty is good for your patients and for your practice. Offering tools that are focused on improving the customer experience helps meet patient needs and at the same time promoting growth and loyalty.
What to Look For in a Solution
You already know that offering patient financing helps patients get access to healthcare services, but what should you look for in a solution? All solutions aren’t created equally, and the solution that you select should be a good match for your patients and your practice. For example, do you want to offer mobile payments for patients on the go? Do you want to offer flexible bill payment and customized financing options? Here are a few things to consider when shopping for the right solution:
Customized financing options. Patients don’t want limited financing options – they want choice. Search for a program that treats patients as “consumers”, giving them options and control over their payments.
Receivables funding. Cash flow is a large concern for medical practices of all sizes. One of the benefits of offering patient financing through a third-party partner is that you may have the option of getting paid upfront on patient balances.
Mobile payments. Ensure that people have the option of paying from their mobile device or tablet. For example, you want the ability to send a customized text or email message to patients that allows them to pay the bill or set up a payment plan. Make sure the process is simple.
Patient portal. More patients want portals where they can make payments, view payment history and access critical documents. A patient portal should be accessible via tablet and smartphone 24/7 to allow people to pay when it’s most convenient.
Patient support. Equally important, all these features must be backed by high-quality patient support and health services. If your patient has a problem or a question about payment options, will they get it addressed quickly and easily? Or will they end up frustrated? Make sure the solution provider makes everything about making payments simple.
Expanding Care Into The Future
Running a practice includes many details, but at the center of all tasks is the patient. How can you help the patient afford the care they need with flexible payment options? Innovative tools that focus on the payment side of the equation help practices do just that. As a result, practices can serve patients with greater respect and compassion by providing the tools they need to get access to care, manage payments and live happier, healthier lives.