Engaging patients where they are during COVID-19

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Engaging patients where they are during COVID-19

May 11, 2021
Health IT
John Talaga
By John Talaga

Facing tighter federal rules for price transparency, significant year over year revenue losses across most metrics, and patient populations dealing with their own precarious finances, hospitals and health systems must find ways to clarify costs and engage patients throughout the payment process. Never have personalized payment solutions been so critical.

Even before the pandemic, patients’ inability to pay was leading greater numbers of them to delay or forgo necessary care—a trend that was driving up healthcare spending as a whole while also depriving provider organizations of much-needed revenue. COVID-19 has driven that healthcare affordability gap even wider. How can providers possibly improve collectability in this environment—without alienating patients or scaring them away from necessary care?

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Some organizations are treating this moment as an opportunity to refine and expand their efforts around pre-service collection.

Building on existing strengths
Many patients have come to expect automatic payment plan offers after a major medical procedure or service. The most effective of these platforms draw on real-time patient data via provider integrations, patient interactions, and external data to personalize the payment plan installment amount and duration to the patient’s specific financial status (within limits set by the hospital); the patients decide which option—and which form of payment—is right for them. Some of these platforms will also automatically roll up new charges into the ongoing plan chosen by the patient rather than asking the patient to start the process over for every care event. Patient-centric features like these have helped providers minimize administrative time, avoid turning patients over to collections, and reduce bad debt.

Provider organizations are now applying the same principles to the pre-service segment.

The right time for pre-service
Too often today, patients have no sense of their financial obligation going into a procedure. Clarifying the out-of-pocket costs patients should expect—taking into account their insurance status and where they are with their deductible—is a distant but important aim of the government regulations that went into effect January 1 of this year. Yet many providers have been honing these pre-service estimates on their own, well aware that preparing patients for their financial liability improves trust and collectability.

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