Priority one for all healthcare organizations is to ensure the safety and care of employees and patients during this health crisis. As the pandemic continues, financial implications for both providers and patients are coming to the forefront. The decline in healthcare spending – much of it due to patient financial insecurity – has forced many organizations to make difficult decisions about furloughs and layoffs in order to stay afloat. Healthcare organizations need to be financially stable to serve their communities, and patients need to know that access to care they can afford is available today.
To do this successfully, healthcare strategies must include caring for a patient’s financial health. Patient financial care, including helping patients afford out-of-pocket expenses, is a proven way to reduce delays in care, attract new patients and build volume. Offering patient financing backed by an engagement strategy that leverages both digital and human engagement expertise is a best practice for re-engaging patients, increasing patient satisfaction and driving provider cash flow.
Patient Friendly and Tech Forward Engagement
With the combination of increased out-of-pocket costs and economic uncertainty, patients are facing challenging financial times. When providers offer flexible payment options to their patients, they are able to remove a primary obstacle to timely access to care. Patient financing solutions also offer clear benefits to providers. They can generate the reliable revenue needed to uphold their organizations’ mission to promote health and wellness in their communities while improving the likelihood of collecting patient-owed balances.
When Floyd Health System, a 325-bed hospital system based in Rome, GA, offered flexible payment options to patients, it saw a 68% increase in patient collections resulting in increased cash flow, while similar health systems struggled because they had not prioritized removing financial barriers to care.
One of the keys to Floyd’s success is offering patients a payment plan that is always 0.00% interest. An interest-free program at Floyd means there is no application, no impact on credit score and no threat of deferred interest found in other programs. Floyd patients only pay the amount on their bills, nothing more.
As a result, more patients get the payment help, and care, they need, And, because default is much lower in an interest-free program, collections are much higher, and providers like Floyd see a demonstrable ROI net of any fees they pay for the program.
However, organizations that provide patient financing without an engagement strategy will not maximize their collections potential in the same manner as Floyd. Proper engagement with patients that builds trust, loyalty and increases payment frequency is key to success of any payment program. A strategy that uses technology to encourage early engagement, as well as digital enrollment, and adjusts for patient preferences will see the greatest return on investment.
Digital First Enrollment
Today, the healthcare financial experience starts as early as scheduling and registration. Unfortunately, the time between that first discussion and the patient’s first bill can be long, leading to reduced engagement and payments.
A digital first enrollment solution offers paperless program enrollment and management for patients who prefer real-time access and payment options. Digital enrollment coupled with early engagement outreach messaging drives awareness and adoption of the payment program. To maximize patient payment, digital outreach should start soon after the first interaction with the provider and continue as the patient is discharged, while their claim is processing and throughout the billing experience.
Starting communication early and maintaining consistent engagement reduces the payment latency that leads to increased days in A/R. While early engagement leveraging digital tactics is the best practice, not all patients respond to a digital-only strategy. Omni-channel campaigns offer all forms of communications, including email, text, live agents, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and traditional mail, to ensure all patients are engaged.
Floyd has seen a significant increase in patient satisfaction since offering omni-channel engagement. While some solutions are digital only, Floyd has found allowing patients to choose their preferred method of communication is key to the success of the program. In fact, patients who have enrolled in their plan often ask if they can use the plan again for future procedures.
Understanding preferences and patient behavior is key to collections. Oftentimes a text is a reminder and a gentle nudge to pay. Although the patient may have indicated that text was the preferred method of communication, he or she may respond and take action when sent an email. The ability to check response rates by channel, source, and even time and day of the week, helps to customize an approach for each patient and increases response rate.
Although notifications and payment options through text and email typically have a high response rate, many people still need human support and physical mail to make payments. A compassionate customer call center that is exclusively focused and trained in healthcare and patient financing can be a vital link between healthcare providers and their patients as they navigate their healthcare financial journey.
When providers prioritize patient financial health by offering affordable payment options for all who need them, and they engage patients using the right tactics at the right time, they see fewer gaps in care, as well as increased revenue and patient loyalty.