A Deeper Look at the Patient Financial Experience - Cover

A Deeper Look at the Patient Financial Experience

There is no denying that the patient financial experience can make or break a health system, even if your patients’ clinical experiences are nothing but positive. And yet, capturing a steadier stream of revenue is critical for healthcare organizations, especially during the ongoing global pandemic. Add this factor to the rising costs of healthcare in the US, and there is a lot of room for improvement. To get more insight on this topic, I spoke with Todd Clark, Managing Director and Partner in L.E.K. Consulting’s healthcare services practice.

Sharlin: What is the current state of the patient financial experience given the pandemic?

Todd: Regardless of some recent reversion to the mean, the utilization of virtual care took a big step forward over the past 17 months. Most industry experts would agree that a substantial portion of that usage is here to stay. But from a financial perspective, the upward trajectory of patient financial responsibility will only continue to increase. It’s an unfortunate reality; there’s just nowhere else for the financial burden to go given the rising cost of healthcare in the US.

At the same time, from the healthcare providers’ perspective, the pandemic has hurt discretionary procedure volumes. These procedures are, of course, financially beneficial to hospitals. And since hospitals were already emphasizing patient satisfaction prior to COVID-19, they are now shining an even brighter spotlight on retaining these discretionary patients. This means that patient financial engagement platforms that can clearly communicate with patients about their bills and offer easy and reasonable options to pay will be of utmost importance in building and maintaining a strong relationship with patients.

These drivers are reflected in the high valuations of certain venture-backed players in patient financial experience and the reason strategic players are snapping up the independents. For example, Waystar recently acquired Patientco, and R1 completed their acquisition of VisitPay. For companies like these, the patient financial experience represents an opportunity to branch out beyond normal business-to-business transactions and touch the business-to-consumer experience.

Sharlin: What can be done to improve the patient financial experience?

Todd: Right now, the patient experience has so many opportunities to improve. Despite the efforts of start-ups and entrenched players alike, we still have a long way to go. There is so much white space for the appropriate platform to facilitate a less burdensome process. But they can only do that by meeting the patient where they are—whether that is on an app, through text, a website, or over the phone.

Predicting the most appropriate experience and offering it at the right time is only half the battle. Once you engage the patient, in most cases, the challenge is not the amount of the bill but the hassle of paying it. Eliminating that friction is the other half of the battle. No one wants to pay extra for healthcare, but solving the problem by offering an easy way to make that payment—regardless of whether the bill is $250 or $2,500 with an option to pay it over time—will create longer-term relationships between providers and their patients. Once an easy payment solution has been created that works best within the guidelines providers set, financial engagement players can then broaden their reach and importance to the health systems.

Sharlin: How would you advise a healthcare service company looking to deploy a new patient finance solution?

Todd: My advice to healthcare companies is to always ask yourself the question: “Is my product doing something tangible that has an objective outcome for patients?” There are many technology and information assets out there that provide general information in a continuum from objective to subjective. But when companies move away from the objective answers, they are losing an opportunity to cement relationships with the patients. 

So what are some objective outcomes to focus on? A few examples include helping patients know when their co-pay is paid, their forms are complete, or their appointment is scheduled. Other outcomes could include the patient being alerted when their prescription is secured or when there is a cheaper MRI center for their necessary scan.  

Let's face it; the most trusted voices in healthcare will and should always be the clinicians. But companies that can solve objective pain points could compete for a close second place. Growth toward other patient engagement areas will be dependent on the trust you create in your core platform by delivering small, digestible wins for patients as consumers.

We’re excited to talk more about the patient financial experience and other patient-centric technologies at DHIS 2021, taking place September 28–29, 2021. Are you a healthcare provider? Register to attend in person or virtually.

Photo credit: Maksym Dykha, Adobe Stock