By Bird Blitch, CEO and co-founder, Patientco.
Since the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, many leaders in the healthcare technology space talk about the concept of transforming the patient experience by providing a “digital front door” for their patients. Of course, for those of us who have been working to transform and move healthcare in a consumer-focused direction for a long time, we remember the bold proclamation of a digital “new front door” from Larry Merlo in late 2017 as the CVS Health and Aetna merger promised a radical change in how patients access and receive their care.
This new industry buzzword is built on the initial concept – the “digital” front door. And, even though disruptions in the healthcare industry emerged prior to the pandemic, according to a 2018 Adobe survey, only 7% of healthcare and pharmaceutical companies said they had gone digital, compared to 15% of companies in other industries. Furthermore, despite the fact that the U.S. healthcare market is projected to reach $5.7 trillion by 2026 in national health spending, the industry continues to be a laggard when it comes to investments in digital transformation.
While many hospitals and healthcare facilities were recently forced to ramp up their focus on digital transformation and telehealth efforts, significant gaps still exist, especially when it comes to patient billing.
Shifting the burden
Like a loose screw or hinge in a door, when one area of the revenue cycle is not optimized, the rest of the organization shoulders the burden. For example, health systems without a modern billing strategy report that confusing paper statements filled with medical jargon and the lack of clarity on what insurance covers is a big reason that patients call their health system. As patients experienced delays in receiving bills due to the Postal Service crisis last summer, the need for digital delivery options has never been greater.
To create a transparent and intuitive billing experience, patients need a personalized, digital option where they can access and pay their bills on time and set up affordable payment options, even outside of traditional business hours. Patients should also have access to 24-hour support to help them better understand their charges and what their statements mean. Real-time chat options or text options offer this to patients in an efficient and convenient way. These types of digital-first options help patients feel empowered to navigate their healthcare financial experience which, in turn, helps to build loyalty.
Extending bedside manner from the clinical to financial care side
Healthcare organizations strive to provide compassionate clinical care, which involves good bedside manner that informs and empathizes with patients, no matter what their diagnosis. It’s time to extend that bedside manner and offer compassionate patient financial care. Today’s healthcare consumer deserves a focused effort from their health system to provide a personalized and compassionate financial experience. Health systems in 2020 must collect patient payments to keep the lights on. However, rather than risk earning a reputation for prioritizing the business and bottom line above all else, consider digital-first billing and payment experiences for patients to be an extension of good bedside manner. Healthcare providers can ensure an overall positive experience throughout the full healthcare journey: from making the initial appointment all the way to providing payment options to cover any out-of-pocket costs.