Think back to the last time you read a negative review about a restaurant. After reading the review, you probably dismissed the restaurant and considered other places to eat.
Now, imagine you’re a patient considering options for an outpatient procedure and you came upon negative reviews about a provider. Chances are, you probably skipped that provider and opted for a consult with someone else. As providers, how can we fix this?
Now, more than ever, patient satisfaction matters, especially given the reach of online review platforms such as Yelp and Zocdoc. A few bad reviews can drive down a provider’s rating, making it critical to deliver an end-to-end experience that turns patients into advocates.
But where does the patient experience end? Many providers assume this is once patients leave their office. But that form of thinking neglects the billing experience – the final point of contact a patient has with a provider, and quite possibly the most influential. Too often, this forgotten process seems built to leave a bad impression. In fact, patient satisfaction ratings fall by more than 30 percent from post-discharge through the billing process.1
With the average patient spending more than $300,000 throughout his or her lifetime in medical expenses2, the loss of even one patient as a customer is significant. Considering patients often turn to their families and friends for referrals, one unhappy patient will almost certainly lead to additional lost patients.
But, there is an upside. If the billing process is a place where providers risk damaging their reputations, it’s also a place where they have the opportunity to make a lasting positive impression. A recent study found that patients satisfied with the medical billing process are five times more likely to recommend the hospital or health system responsible for provided services to others.3 They’re also twice as likely to pay their bill in full.4
Revenue’s reliance on satisfied patients
Studies show providers anticipate collecting more than 80 percent of a patient’s balance post-visit. And, with the rise of high-deductible plans, patient cost sharing will only continue to increase. It’s clear that the collections process is crucial for a better patient experience and improved provider bottom line.
However, if you survey patients, more than 60 percent find their hospital bill confusing5. Key reasons include:
– Multiple bills for multiple encounters, even if all episodes of care took place at the same location with the same provider.
– Billing details, such as clear direction of the exact total owed versus what the insurer is covering, may be missing.
– The bill lists CPT or DRG codes (instead of clear descriptions) that are difficult for the patient to decipher.
Many of these complaints result from the use of antiquated billing technology, much of which hasn’t changed over the last two decades. But, similar to other consumer services that provide convenient payment options, we’re now seeing a revolution within the patient financial management space that promises new opportunities for providers to deliver a modern approach to billing and set new revenue standards.
For example, best practices being used by leading retail companies to communicate with and service consumers are now being applied to patient billing. Using advanced analytics, providers can automate the outreach process to patients, as well as methods of payment and options for payment plans. Algorithms can be continually applied to optimize preferred methods of contact and payment type based on patient behavior, including the cadence and time of day interactions are made.
Evidence shows that these adjustments can have a big impact. While patients typically make payments within 120-150 days of receiving a bill 30 days post-visit, this use of sophisticated data science has led to patient payment conversion within 30 days post-visit after as few as four to five interactions.
The billing process is also being improved with the use of personalized digital payment options, similar to the e-commerce industry. According to a study facilitated by Cedar across more than 10,000 patients, the majority of payments (67 percent) are made through digital means. Patients are also more likely to respond immediately when contacted digitally, such as email or text. In fact, the pay rate is much higher (77 percent) for those that receive an electronic communication, compared to those that receive a paper communication (55 percent).
Lastly, the availability of real-time help is vital for improving the patient experience with medical billing. A large portion of patient frustration comes from the need to follow up with billing departments for more clarity on medical bills. By providing live chat features, providers can make it easier for patients to get help when it’s needed most. Cedar has found that more than 80 percent of patients pay their bill after using its live chat feature.
A golden opportunity
Healthcare professionals work too hard to have their reputations damaged by a broken billing system and settling for the status quo. Through investments in patient billing, providers can ensure that a patient’s final experience with their hospital or practice ends on a positive note, ultimately gaining trusted word-of-mouth advocates and avoiding online criticism. By leveraging modern technology for an “old” problem such as patient billing, providers can be one step closer to the recognition they deserve.
Florian Otto, co-founder and chief executive officer, Cedar, a NYC-based company providing a smarter way for hospitals, health systems and medical groups to manage the patient payment ecosystem. Their revenue cycle platform delivers modern intelligence to dramatically improve billing operations and ensure a personalized billing experience for patients.