Technology is touching everything in the world, adding convenience and efficiency in the process. The healthcare sector is also experiencing the tremendous impact of technology even in day-to-day processes such as medical data entry. Most importantly, now patient expectations are driven by the force of technology that has seeped into their lives. The digital transformation is also shaping their expectations regarding medical care. To stay relevant therefore, healthcare providers must keep pace with these expectations.
Let us look at some of the areas where providers fail to meet patient expectations and which they need to address efficiently.
- Medical billing and collections: According to a new survey from Waystar and HIMSS Analytics, providers and patients do not see eye to eye regarding medical billing and collecting patient financial responsibility. The survey that involved 900 financial executives from various healthcare units, hospital and outpatient facilities showed that the majority of organizations bill patient financial responsibility using paper statements. However, more than one half of the 1000 patients surveyed preferred electronic medical billing and payment. While patients are evolving as regards how they want to receive their billing information from providers, the providers are not aware of how to identify those pain points to help ensure a better patient experience.
- Healthcare price transparency: Around 87% of healthcare executives surveyed said their organizations have the capability to provide patients with a cost estimate upon request. However, less than 1/3rd of patients know to ask for such a cost estimate in spite of the benefits of receiving price information. Since around 86% of the healthcare consumers surveyed said that they understood their patient financial responsibility when they received cost estimates from their providers, it is clear that patients value cost estimates and healthcare price transparency. Therefore, providers and healthcare executives need to focus more on increasing healthcare price transparency; more so, because a large number of patients fail to even ask for a cost estimate.
- Credit card on file capability: More than 75% of patients surveyed said that they would allow healthcare organizations to charge a credit card provided at the time of service for medical costs up to $200. However, few providers (just 20% of providers, according to a 2017 Navicure survey) offer to collect payments via a credit card on file. Providers also favor the credit card on file method for patient collections despite few of them having that capability. 20% of providers considered a credit card on file as the most successful way to reduce collection costs, after online patient collections. 20% of providers said that credit cards on file was the best strategy for reducing patient days in accounts receivable whereas 29% opined that it was an effective method for reducing bad debt and write-offs.
Surveys such as the above highlight the need for healthcare organizations to be proactive enough and respond appropriately to meet the new patient expectations. Without ensuring convenience and transparency, healthcare providers will find it difficult to advance in an intensely competitive world.
The observations of Oliver Kharraz MD, president and founder of ZocDoc, are very relevant in this regard. In a webinar hosted by Becker’s Hospital Review, he pointed out that patients expect instantaneously personalized and secure transactions, whether in person or online. They want access to a marketplace that allows them to make their own choices. Therefore physician offices that are able to offer patients more choice such as weekend and evening appointments and other such conveniences are more likely to retain patients. Healthcare organizations can also focus on sending highly customized emails or messages to patients, matching the right message to the right person based on demographic factors, health needs and so on. This will act as a very powerful and effective preventive tool.
Managing a healthcare organization or medical practice can be very challenging. Providers and business managers need to pay great attention to each and every activity and implementation – even when utilizing outsourced solutions for better functioning. To retain existing patients and attract new patients, the focus must be on understanding the patient psyche and providing what they are looking for. Any effort and monetary investment made in this regard will be worthwhile.