As the patient transitions into becoming a consumer, they are creating disruption. This disruption isn’t bad, but it does require an innovative response to survive and thrive. A patient-centered approach demands a cultural change and the execution of a consumer-oriented approach to engaging in ways not previously required.
The traditional mindset of the patient is that someone else will take care of his or her health care costs. This is changing dramatically, and patients are struggling to manage through the change. That is because their financial obligations go largely unexplained and communication with their providers are statement driven or outsourced. A consistent, clear, concise explanation of the financial process is not provided or reinforced throughout the care process. The health system is often seen as creating these challenges when we know it’s the health care system, employers and health plans that have driven these changes. Patient satisfaction and loyalty are impacted when the health system does not fully inform the patient of the process and then adhere to that process. Getting a big bill with a large, unexplained, patient balance 120 days after a surgery will transform the best clinical experience into a patient satisfaction debacle.
Hospitals have traditionally used the same business practices, which are rooted in a different time and environment, for all patients. Over the past few years, there has been significant progress in delivering patient estimates and insurance verification in an effort to improve point-of- service collections. This progress has been delivered in the same old package where the patient is a collection target versus a valued customer. We’ve all experienced buying something from someone who seemed more interested in seeing our wallet than understanding our needs and making us a priority. Well, that is the experience we’ve created by focusing only on buying tools and not creating a customer- focused process.
In most health care markets, the patient is now the third largest payer. Health systems must now educate their patients on the financial process (insured and uninsured), facilitate access to all available coverage sources and establish a payment method that works for both parties. By doing this in a consumer-oriented way, the health system will be seen as an advocate for the patient’s financial well-being, resulting in improved patient financial satisfaction scores and improved patient loyalty.
“Hospitals have been dealing with self-pay for some time, but not in the volume or dollars we are seeing now,” said Sheila Schweitzer, CEO of PatientMatters. “The cash at stake is substantial and much harder to collect than it is from a third party payer.”
PatientMatters takes a comprehensive approach to the patient’s financial experience with a financial care plan that transforms each patient into an educated consumer, empowering them to engage effectively with the health care system. This approach improves the satisfaction of patient, health system staff and, ultimately, the health system’s financial performance. Our success is driven by:
When health systems leverage our programs, they observe how educating staff and patients can change behavior, leading to higher yields on patient balances by engaging patients and empowering staff.