Healthcare providers are working to engage patients at a time when attention is more fragmented than ever. People are bombarded with phone calls, emails, and text messages – not to mention the distractions of social media. What’s more, not actively keeping patients engaged has the potential to adversely affect health.
Patients who aren’t engaged are twice as likely to defer care and three times more likely to have health needs that aren’t actively being addressed. Distracted patients have trouble remembering when they had their last physical when their next mammogram is due or which payment options are available to fund patient-centered care.
The cost of healthcare is also a challenge. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, one-third of Americans are enrolled in a healthcare plan with a deductible of $1,000 or more, and 14 percent are enrolled in a plan with a deductible of $2,000 or more. Patients need access to healthcare, but scheduling appointments and making it to those appointments – and then having the resources to pay for care – is a challenge. As a result, engaging patients and helping people get the resources they need to stay healthy is key.
Implementing the right patient engagement strategy has the potential to transform the patient experience and the financial health of a practice. More meaningful experiences are delivered with greater efficiency, and that improves the performance of a practice.
Driving Greater Engagement Online
The world in which patients live has transformed in recent years. One-click shopping, fast delivery, and other “on-demand” services raise the bar for all providers, including those serving in the healthcare space. Many patients prefer to interact, make appointments and manage payments online, yet many are saying that they feel disconnected.
A 2017 study found that while 71 percent of healthcare providers say improving and establishing patient engagement is a priority in their organization, only 29 percent of patients would give their healthcare providers an “A” rating for use of technology to interact and engage with patients.
Millennial patients expect 24/7 access to healthcare information and can be quick to change practices if they don’t get it. On the other end of the spectrum, one practice found that patients over the age of 65 are the biggest patient portal adopters. This population spends a great deal of time considering their health and appreciates the ability to engage with information and resources online.
Practices can deploy strategies to encourage more patients to engage digitally to increase engagement and patient connectivity. A practice’s centralized call center, for example, might request the email addresses of every patient scheduled and immediately send an invitation to join that payment platform.
Implementing a Personalized Approach to Communication
Patients want to connect with healthcare professionals on their own terms through communication channels that feel more personalized. One study found that 52 percent of consumers report they’d likely switch companies if that organization didn’t make an effort to personalize communications.
Healthcare providers who understand this critical point have an opportunity to engage in more personalized ways to build engagement with patients. For example, customized email and text communications can provide patients with what is required for their upcoming appointment so they are prepared. Most patients prefer text messages as the first line of communication, but healthcare professionals should reach out through multiple lines of communication, including email and phone calls.
Simplifying Patient Transactions
The consumer mindset is changing. According to research conducted by NTT DATA, “59% of U.S. consumers expect their healthcare digital customer experience to be similar to retail.” Patients use auto-pay to schedule utility payments, car payments, and other financial obligations. They want the same ease of payment with their healthcare providers. Fast, simple and reliable digital interaction can boost patient engagement.
In fact, the same research showed that 75% of patients felt methods for bill payment with their healthcare providers required improvement. Today’s patient expects flexibility and convenience around how they pay for services. By providing automated payment solutions, practices can:
- Boost patient satisfaction.
- Engage with patients on the move.
- Quickly collect payments, even on low balances.
For example, ClearGage’s AutoPay™ with Account on File technology allows a practice to safely store and use a patient’s payment account to pay for balances owed after insurance adjudication. Payment accounts are tokenized and stored in an encrypted payment vault. As balances become due, AutoPay™ automatically schedules the payment based on the preauthorized patient agreement.
This simplifies the experience for all patients, but especially those who are going to be visiting their provider’s office multiple times over the course of an extended period. The patient can leave their card on file authorized for up to a specific dollar amount. The patient is alerted prior to the charges posting, which makes the process much easier on the next visit. Simplified payment options in conjunction with more flexible financing solutions allow practices to quickly elevate the patient experience.
Empowering Patients With Simplified Financing Options
Some patients struggle to pay their portion of healthcare costs. Financing options that are affordable, transparent and tailored to a person’s unique needs have the potential to increase patient engagement. At the same time, practices need help reducing patient balances and automating the reduction of those balances. Staff work countless hours to collect bills and keep receivables flowing into the practice. If a practice can decrease patient debt while increasing patient engagement in healthcare – that creates an ideal situation.
Patients want to work directly with the practice. Many of the available financing options require the patient to go through an outside organization to finance their healthcare costs. This can feel impersonal and like they’re being “passed off” during the payment process. A plan that allows them to finance directly through the practice builds greater engagement and feels more personalized.
Patients need access to payment options, regardless of their credit score. Patients feel frustrated when they need a payment plan, but the provider’s existing option declines them based on credit. A company that provides a 100% approval rate is ideal because it’s inclusive to all patients who need payment assistance.
Providers need the ability to sell receivables. Cash flow is critical to practices of all sizes. A plan that allows for the financing of patient care yet has the flexibility to “sell” receivables and the remainder of a balance, allows practices to realize revenue whenever they want.
ClearGage is one company that offers these benefits and provides payment solutions that revolutionize the way organizations engage with patients and collect payments. This results in increased cash flow and a reduction in the costs associated with managing patient payments. Engagement is improved when patients can manage the cost of care all in one place and with greater ease.
Collaborating With Patients to Drive Greater Engagement
Patients are motivated to partner with their providers. They no longer want to be the recipient of services but instead, want to be part of the process. People want to understand their care in greater depth while enjoying personalization and access to the details they need around the clock. The demand for tools and resources to simplify and streamline healthcare has never been greater.
Innovation that is designed with patient engagement at the forefront, such as flexible payment options that help the patient and the provider, assists patients with gaining greater control and engagement through their experience. As a result, providers can build more meaningful and powerful relationships with the patients they serve while growing their bottom line.