Is Your Patient Financial Experience Losing You Customers?

Posted on November 22, 2021 by Kylene Coate

Patient financing is a critical part of delivering a positive healthcare experience for customers and is directly linked to retaining their loyalty. Yet, many healthcare organizations don’t measure the impact the financial experience has on customers.

The financial experience is the final perception that customers are left with after seeking medical care. This means that even if the patient has experienced standout service throughout their medical journey — from booking an appointment, visiting the healthcare practice, waiting for their appointment, and being seen by a healthcare professional — their financial experience is the final opportunity to make a good impression.

A poor financial experience can prevent customers from returning. 65% of patients would change providers based on being able to pay using their preferred payment method.

Cultivating a positive financial experience for patients takes commitment. Healthcare providers need to create a seamless, accurate, and consistent experience the entire way along the patient journey. Studies show that it can take up to two years to build customer loyalty so providers need to be ahead of the curve and implement changes as soon as possible.

Tena Hoxsie, Vice President of Patient Financial Experience for Metro Health, says, “A patient’s perception of a wonderful clinical experience declines when their financial experience is negative.”  In other words, a poor financial experience can lead to patients choosing care with other organizations.

Understand the patient financial experience

Before you can change the patient’s financial experience for the better you need to properly understand it. Revenue cycle teams and point of service staff are at the front lines of the patient experience. Spend time with these members of staff to get a thorough understanding of the policies and approaches to the financial journey.

Historically, revenue cycle management has been designed to effectively deal with insurance claims, not patient collections. With patients now responsible for more payments than ever, there may be holes in the revenue cycle that lead to frustration for your patients. Ms. Hoxsie suggests when a patient is informed upfront of their financial obligations and understand their payment options, their experience is positive — even if they have financial liability for services rendered.

With this in mind, go over every part of the patient experience with a critical eye. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Is accurate demographic and insurance information collected at the first point of contact?
  • Do you offer pre-service estimates?
  • Are your bill statements clear, well designed, and easily break down services owed?
  • Is communication clear, frequent, and timely before and after a patient’s appointment?
  • Are there multiple ways to pay including directly after the appointment and online?
  • Is it easy for customers to reach out to ask questions about their billing statements?
  • Is it easy for customers to provide feedback?

While according to a 2017 report from the Center of Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform 70% of patients find their medical bills confusing. If your healthcare organization has a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy for any parts of the billing process, it’s probably a good time to expand your offerings.

Measure what is and isn’t working

The best way to get definitive data on what is and isn’t turning customers away is to simply ask. There are multiple ways healthcare providers can do this, from surveys, to focus groups or online panels. If you provide an online payment option, consider adding in the ability for patients to rate their financial experience and leave any feedback online.

If customers can pay after their appointment, a simple check-box customer experience survey may be enough to measure the areas customers would like to see improvements in. Healthcare providers should continue to measure customer satisfaction after new ideas and changes have been implemented to make sure it is improving.

Develop an end-to-end patient financial journey

A Connance study found that among patients who had rated a hospital’s billing process well, 85% would recommend the hospital, and 95% would return for future services. Developing an end-to-end patient financial journey is worth it to retain current customers and attract new ones. Think about the financial interactions that patients have with your system.

Understanding that the financial side of your business is also responsible for upholding the standards of your practice as a ‘brand.’ Identifying touchpoints that customers have with the financial side can help to discover areas to improve that experience.

Providers still have a lot of changes to make before the healthcare industry can be as consumer-friendly as retail. Creating a more transparent, flexible financial experience will go a long way to giving patients the innovative, customer-centric experience they are looking for.

As deductibles continue to rise, so too will the need for consumers to be able to accurately plan and manage their finances. Healthcare providers who can understand and deliver a super financial experience to patients will be light years ahead of their competitors and see the results in their own bottom line. Providing a billing process that is barrier-free, easily understood, and patient-centric will help deliver an excellent patient financial experience.

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