COVID-19 is reshaping the healthcare system and the way patients pay for their care. The decline in healthcare spending and increased financial strain resulting from the economic shut down has forced patients and providers to consider their financial and payment options. Providers need cash flow to stay afloat while patients need financing to afford care.
While COVID -19 has accelerated the need for patient financing, certain existing trends are shaping the industry and the way patients pay for their medical expenses. These trends include a focus on consumerism as well as multi-channel communications and payments.
Multi-channel communications and payments
The key to reducing the lag between billing and payment is communicating with patients on their terms using their preferred communication methods. These can include communications via email, social media, website, call center, mail or text message.
Which do consumers prefer? According to a recent survey by CMO Council and Pitney Bowes, the answer is: All of them. Omni-channel is the channel of choice.
In fact, 85% of people surveyed said they prefer a brand to reach them from both physical and digital angles. This holds true across generations. No matter the age, all generations – including Generation X, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation – were willing to sacrifice their data for the sake of having their needs met in the digital space. However, one out of three respondents still expects mail to be part of how a brand communicates.
Human connection is a vital part of the messaging mix. While email is the top channel choice (selected by 86% percent of respondents), a telephone number to call was second on the ranking, and having access to a real-life person was in the top five.
In healthcare, this human connection is even more important. CarePayment, a patient financing company that helps patients pay their medical bills over time, employs a compassionate customer call center that is exclusively focused and trained in healthcare and patient financing. We have found this to be a vital link between healthcare providers and their patients throughout the financial process. Specially trained and dedicated staff ensures helpful and respectful communication and maintains a positive experience for patients. It is the kind of experience that consumers have begun to expect from all brand interactions, including those in healthcare.
Technology is vital to an omni-channel approach. Although consumers want options across channels, they do not want to be inundated with information from each. And, they expect the channels they do interact with to work together. CarePayment technology checks response rates by channel, source and even time and day of the week, to customize an approach for each patient and increase response rate. For example, a patient may choose email as his/her preferred communication, but payment comes through text. Individualizing a response and customizing the way channels work together is key in engaging patients to pay.
Consumerism continues to be one of the top factors impacting healthcare and patient collections. The widening affordability gap and the rise in high-deductible health plans have pushed patients to assume more responsibility for their medical costs. With this additional responsibility, consumers have taken a more active role in choosing a provider. How they pay for provider services is a top factor in this decision.
A survey by TransUnion Healthcare reports that half of patients factor costs into their decision to use a provider, and 75% of patients are looking up the cost of medical procedures online.
It’s not simply the methods and options to pay, it’s also the terms that affect both likelihood to pay and patient satisfaction.
When patients are offered zero-interest payment plans, they are more likely to be able to pay, and providers are able to collect on balances owed. With a zero-interest plan, patients can pay their balances over time in small payments without the worry of being buried in interest.
A 0.00% APR solution also greatly increases patient satisfaction. According to a CarePayment survey, 76% of patients would choose a CarePayment provider over one that doesn’t offer the program, and 89% of respondents are more satisfied with their provider when CarePayment is offered. Because patients are making more of their healthcare decisions based on costs, a provider offering an interest-free solution can have a distinct advantage.
The pandemic has only accelerated the need to offer affordable financing to patients and compassionate communication across multiple channels. Omni-channel communications and the rise of consumerism continue to be two trends to watch in patient financing and healthcare in 2021.