Healthcare has become increasingly complex for both providers and patients in recent years. As the economic landscape evolves, and the convergence of healthcare and technology places consumers at the center, insurers have continued to shift the burden of cost for necessary medical expenses.
In a recent Gallup poll, 38% of Americans said they delayed dental and medical treatment due to cost, up from 26% in 2021. This growing trend also creates challenges for providers as payers continue to cut reimbursements for operational costs and patients become more reluctant to proactively seek out care.
Considering all these factors, it’s no surprise that healthcare payments have become increasingly complex for everyone involved. Providers are looking to financing partners to help streamline the process and ensure that patients are able to access the care they want and need, when they want and need it.
What the Data Tells Us
Synchrony recently released the results of its Lifetime of Healthcare Costs in the U.S. study, which aimed to provide a comprehensive overview of the perceptions and realities of healthcare costs throughout an individual’s adult lifetime. The results paint an eye-opening picture – as a whole, there’s a gap between patient’s perceptions of healthcare costs and reality. Even insured adults can expect to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for healthcare over their lifetime, and despite an increase in costs, fewer than half of all Americans are actively saving for future healthcare expenses.
As technological advances streamline payment processes and offer access to new financing solutions and financial literacy, 41% of adults currently have some debt caused by medical or dental bills, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health Care Debt Survey. Many patients said they are delaying recommended medical care due to costs and lack of savings, with younger generations like Millennials and Gen Z saying that a potential healthcare bill of $500 dollars or more will likely cause them to forego treatment altogether, often to the detriment of their health.
Impact on Providers
As consumers assume a greater share of the healthcare bill, providers are one step ahead – investing in technology and working with third-party financing solutions to adapt their processes.
The complex and often unpredictable nature of insurance coverage and reimbursement leads to an increased administrative workload for providers, a reality that has been only heightened by the pandemic and subsequent staffing shortages. Managing an uneven or unpredictable flow of patient payments, handling insurance claims, and navigating the intricate world of medical billing can consume valuable time and resources, taking away from patient care.
At the same time, patients are becoming more cost-conscious and seeking out other healthcare options – so providers must work harder to retain patients and attract new ones. This can involve offering everything from competitive pricing and implementing patient-friendly billing practices, to enhancing the overall patient experience, to even leveraging data analytics to identify areas for improvement and optimize revenue.
Benefits of Working with Third-Party Financing Solutions
As healthcare costs continue to rise following the pandemic, more and more providers will be expected to help their patients navigate an increasingly challenging healthcare system while providing the care patients need.
That’s where a third-party financing solution comes in.
These solutions often have dedicated teams and advanced technology to handle billing, collections, and payment processing. This, in turn, reduces the administrative burden on healthcare providers and simplifies the process for patients, who are often navigating multiple payment processes across their providers.
The financing partner can also work closely with providers to develop customized solutions that cater to the unique needs of the provider’s practice by offering various payment plans, interest-free options, and other tailored financial solutions that make healthcare more affordable for patients. Patients can also gain access to financial education resources offered by some partners to better understand their healthcare costs and navigate the often-confusing world of medical billing.
In the face of growing healthcare costs and financial challenges, third-party financing solutions have an important role to play in making the billing process easier for everyone, and working with patients to help prepare them for future healthcare costs. With the payment experience being an increasingly important part of the patient experience, these partners can offer valuable support while allowing providers to focus on what they do best: delivering exceptional care.
Tim Donovan is SVP, Health & Wellness, at Synchrony.