Patient Engagement Goes High-Tech

In Part One, “Engaging Patients Delivers Revenue Rewards,” we examined the importance of patient-friendly financial communication strategies and staff education. In Part Two, we investigate the benefits of providing patients with advanced technological services to support involvement in the revenue cycle and optimize care.

At many hospitals, engaging patients in the revenue cycle begins and ends with their online patient portal, where patients are able to view and pay bills. While that may be sufficient for some patients, it’s not enough for everyone – particularly as patients become more accustomed to on-demand mobile access to bill pay and other financial services. To that end, providers are partnering with technology companies to develop better patient engagement strategies expanding the portal strategy to modern cloud-based solutions that enable patients to engage in the revenue cycle whenever and where ever it is convenient.

It’s a smart move. Developing and implementing a comprehensive, well-defined, strategy for leveraging technology tools that enable engagement delivers measurable returns in a number of ways. Most notably, technology tools have been shown to decrease bad debt and speed collections. But they also improve efficiencies, increase patient and provider satisfaction and reduce hard costs associated with billing and collections.

 

Growing Influence

Patients are now the second largest payment group in healthcare, behind only the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS). Between 2006 and 2015, the average annual deductible increased from $303 to $1,077 for patients with employer-sponsored health coverage. With patients’ influence on the bottom line growing rapidly – and with it uncollected patient payments totaling $150 million a year – it is more important than ever for providers to engage patients in the revenue cycle.

Success requires addressing a number of factors that contribute to anemic collection rates, most of which stem from the lack of patient-centric financial communication and opportunities. For example, out of pocket price transparency for estimated procedure costs are in high demand, yet less than one-third of hospitals in the U.S. provide them. This is despite research indicating that 80% of patients who receive accurate costs estimates will pay their bills in a timely manner—a significant amount considering patient payment liability was expected to hit to $420 billion in 2015.

The reality is that estimates work because price transparency allows patients to anticipate and budget for the costs they will incur for their upcoming care.

Thus, it is imperative for healthcare providers to develop strategies to engage patients through education and collaboration. A smart approach is one that complements price transparency with a variety of payment methods enabling patients to pay according to their personal preferences.

 

On-Demand Success

Many hospitals provide patients with online portals to pay and view their bills. However, this approach has had limited success due to the inherent complexities of accessing portals, which also contain protected health information and are therefore subject to rigorous HIPAA requirements.

A more efficient and effective approach is one that leverages the ubiquitous nature of mobile communications, such as billing and collection methods that are served across cloud-based platforms and accessible on-demand via smartphones and other mobile devices.

These technologies provide patients with a user-friendly channel to conveniently and easily access cost estimates, pay balances and even set up payment plans on the fly. Implementing these solutions will also create opportunities for advance payment and co-pays that will facilitate an increase in collections of patient shares due. These services will also include patient appointment-reminders, which will reduce no-show rates and improve patient experience and satisfaction.

 

The High-Tech Touch

Patient engagement through technology has the potential to accelerate the revenue cycle. Debt associated with patient responsibility for medical expenses will decrease while on-time and pre-payments will speed collections.

Additionally, these high-tech solutions will ultimately improve workflow and productivity by removing collections from daily activities, which will also increase patient and clinician satisfaction.

Part Three of this series will explore several technologies already on the market that enable provider organizations of all sizes to quickly and easily engage patients in the revenue cycle.

To learn more about the patient payment tools available from SwervePay Health, visit booth #7785-08 at HIMSS17, taking place in Orlando, Florida Feb. 19-23.