By Noel Felipe, revenue cycle practice leader, Firstsource.
The pandemic has created a sense of urgency around improving patient engagement. Consumers accustomed to Amazon-like retail experiences are now embracing digital across personal transactions, including healthcare. Telehealth and remote monitoring have gained rapid traction, especially for non-emergent conditions and follow-up. At the same time, outpatient visits are rapidly outpacing inpatient. Together, these two trends are resulting in patients spending very little time at hospitals receiving care and paying bills.
With more care delivered through outpatient and virtual settings, healthcare leaders are asking: how do we effectively engage patients to optimize the patient financial experience and enhance recovery?
The answer lies in understanding shifting consumer expectations and designing a patient engagement solution that best fits their evolving needs.
What do modern consumers expect?
As robo calls continue to rise, Americans are using their smartphones to screen calls, making it harder for providers to connect with patients after service. Studies show that the chance of collecting goes down by 58% once patients leave the facility, as they are less motivated to pay once the services have been rendered. This means providers must begin the patient engagement process early in the revenue cycle at the pre-service stage and maintain high levels of engagement during and after service to improve their net revenue.
The good news is consumers increasingly prefer digital channels of communication that offer the flexibility to engage with providers outside traditional business hours and in the privacy of their homes. They also want to get things done quickly and easily. Whether they are shopping for a provider or checking their health insurance coverage, they want to get the information they need, when they need it – and they are willing to use self-service to achieve this.
Clearly, digital offers the perfect avenue of engagement for forward-looking providers looking to become industry leaders.
Prioritizing digital: The key to success
A decade ago, providers worked primarily with health insurance companies to recover payments. Today, patients are the third-largest payer behind Medicare and Medicaid. Despite this reality, hospitals struggle to collect pre-service or at the point of service, and many are not pre-registering almost 95% of scheduled patients. This is resulting in suboptimal outcomes: higher operating costs to secure payments, increased accounts receivable (AR) days and bad debts due to increasing denial rates, and revenue leakage due to higher cancellation rates that force skilled clinical personnel and revenue generating equipment to sit idle.
The industry will need to limit non-clinical patient-facing interactions to curb the spread of disease, placing greater emphasis on using digital systems to complete registration and insurance discovery prior to arrival. This will not only help reduce onsite registration staff costs but also enhance the patient experience at the point of service and improve recovery. Moreover, as Covid-related job losses result in large number of uninsured, screening patients prior to arrival increases conversion rates. This is particularly important for organizations that have a legal obligation or mission to serve unfunded patients.
How does digital patient engagement work?
A digital patient engagement system can take the form of intelligent kiosks, virtual waiting rooms, or digital patient engagement platforms that give patients the experience they’re looking for while also optimizing the payment collection process. Regardless of the form they take, such solutions typically include:
- A web based self-serve engagement platform that allows patients to complete the registration of pre-scheduled services when it’s convenient for them to do so, using the mode of engagement they prefer.
- Advanced data analytics to identify undiscovered opportunities for funding, such as third-party liability, workers compensation, and disability.
- Convenient, easy to use portal to make payments along with customized payment programs for each patient, based on attributes and data elements specific to individuals.
- Intelligent analytics underpinned by propensity-to-pay scoring models, machine learning and AI to maximize and enhance opportunities for patient interaction. Baby boomers prefer voice and email, for instance, while millennials choose text and chat.
- Continual learning capabilities to determine actions that lead to the highest patient satisfaction, reduced costs and enhanced cash flows
Bridging the patient financial experience gap
For years, providers have focused on improving their clinical experience and revenues. But patient engagement in the modern context goes beyond the clinical experience – it includes the financial experience as well; especially as patient financial responsibility continues to increase.
Digital patient engagement tools use automation, analytics and omnichannel communication to empower patients and hospital staff, streamline outreach, and improve outcomes. For patients, these systems provide peace of mind about how they are going to pay for their services. For hospitals, they deliver significantly improved results, including greater patient engagement, increased recovery, and reduced costs.