Insights from the Porter Research 2021 CarePayment Member Survey
By Ed Caldwell
As the cost of healthcare rises, more Americans are finding themselves in medical debt. A new JAMA study reported that consumers have $140 billion in unpaid medical bills. The researchers found that, between 2009 and 2020, unpaid medical bills became the largest source of debt that Americans owe collections agencies.
When patients can’t pay, hospitals suffer, as well. According to the American Hospital Association, hospitals have provided more than $660 billion worth of uncompensated care since 2000. This statistic does not include the financial impact of COVID-19. As a result, many health systems that provide wellness, health services and economic growth to their communities struggle to stay afloat.
One solution to break the cycle of medical debt and uncompensated care is to focus on patient financial engagement. Proper financial engagement helps eliminate a major source of uncertainty when people can be facing serious unknowns about their health. Once they have their finances arranged and a plan to pay, they can engage clinically and focus on getting better.
To understand the impact of financial engagement on both providers and consumers, CarePayment commissioned a study of 2,500 members, patients who are currently enrolled in CarePayment’s 0.00% APR patient financing solution:
- More than 50% of members were between the ages of 25 and 56 with most having at least some college/associate degrees.
- 40% of members are degreed professionals with close to 60% having full-time employment.
- The median total household income range is $50,000 – $75,000.
- All CarePayment members have received medical care in a hospital setting at least one time.
The 2021 CarePayment Member Survey, conducted by Porter Research, discovered that a long-term, interest-free financing solution builds provider loyalty and trust. When done in a compassionate manner, financial engagement increases patient satisfaction, while increasing collections for the provider.
Compassionate financial engagement includes two key elements: Offering long-term, interest-free financing and committing to the patient experience.
Long-term, Interest-free Financing
The 2021 CarePayment Member Survey found that 42% of consumers delayed healthcare and 24% could not afford additional medical expenses without a financing plan due to COVID-19.
The survey also found that consumers were struggling to pay medical bills independent of COVID, with two-thirds having difficulty affording their deductible. CarePayment members are also likely to have delayed their medical care if they were not able to use a patient financing plan for their out-of-pocket expenses. 45% stated they do not know how they would have paid for their medical expenses without CarePayment’s patient financing program, while 28% stated they never would have been able to pay their medical expenses without CarePayment.
According to the survey, consumers need more time to pay their medical bills. The majority want to pay for healthcare treatment costs with a financing plan for 12 months or longer. 91% stated it was easier to pay for medical expenses when they have at least 12 months to pay.
Consumers are also more likely to pay their bills through a 0.00% APR interest program vs. an interest-bearing program. 74% prefer to pay their future medical expenses with CarePayment’s interest-free solution, while 0% preferred a traditional interest-bearing financing program.
A solution that offers interest-free financing over the course of the loan with flexible payment terms removes a primary obstacle to timely access to care. When providers offer a 0.00% APR plan, patients can pay their balance over time in small payments without the worry of being buried in interest. Patients are more likely to be able to pay with an interest-free product, and providers are able to collect on balances owed.
The patient experience has become a top priority for most healthcare CEOs. Patients are demanding care that focuses on convenience, personalization and quality. From scheduling and payment to clinical treatment, the patient experience includes all interactions with the health system. Patient financial engagement plays an integral role in how patients perceive the value of their treatment and address their payments.
Offering a long-term, interest-free financing solution builds trust between patient and provider, a key component to the patient experience. The 2021 CarePayment Member Survey found that consumers are more trusting of providers who offer 0.00% APR programs for medical care, and patients trust CarePayment to have their best interests when it comes to helping pay outstanding medical bills. Partnering with a patient financing solution that understands the importance of great customer service and extends trust to the business side of healthcare will build loyalty and customer engagement.
Personalization is integral to a positive patient experience and to increasing collections. An omni-channel engagement strategy that is personalized for patients and uses technology and patient preference to customize an approach increases engagement.
The 2021 CarePayment Member Survey found that 63% of CarePayment members prefer to receive information about their account and balance via email. The second most popular form of communication was postal mail, followed by text.
Although email, postal mail and text ranked as the most popular, a compassionate customer call center that is exclusively focused and trained in healthcare and patient financing can provide a vital link between healthcare providers and their patients as they navigate their healthcare financial journey. Having live agents available and after business-hours options for account access and payment shows patients that they are valued and that someone is always available to meet their needs.
While patients expect to be offered a mix of digital and human communication, a fully realized patient experience is tailored to the individual. This means checking response rates by channel, source and even time and day of the week, to customize an approach for each patient to increase response rate. Individualizing a response and customizing the way channels work creates a positive patient experience and increases collections.
Offering patients access to financing builds reliable provider revenue while improving the likelihood of collecting patient-owed balances. The 2021 CarePayment Member Survey findings show that proper financial engagement can be a key link in helping consumers afford medical care and providing revenue for providers so that they can continue to serve their communities.
Ed Caldwell is President and CEO of patient financing company CarePayment, which partners with providers to dramatically improve their financial health by offering 0.00% APR financing to their patients, so people can get and pay for the care they need, when they need it, without high out-of-pocket costs getting in the way.