How Digital Patients are Changing the Healthcare Industry

Updated on May 22, 2023

The unprecedented events of the past few years have created massive changes in the way we live, work, and communicate. Practically everyone has transitioned to a digital lifestyle, using smart devices to conduct all manner of business. As consumers have changed, so must the industries that serve them, including the healthcare industry.

But how have your patients changed? Do you truly know your patients anymore? Healthcare leaders are already aware of the importance of understanding patients to provide them with the highest level of service. So, healthcare organizations now must take a closer look at the wants and needs of this new generation of patients and be willing to change the way they interact with and serve them.

The ever-rising deductible

Healthcare costs continue to rise. So have healthcare patient deductibles. Around 53% of American workers had high-deductible health plans in 2020, an increase of 34% from 2015. And during the past decade, the average deductible rose from $991 to $1,669. These rising healthcare deductibles are increasing out-of-pocket costs and putting financial pressure on patients, forcing some patients to delay care.  In 2022, 38% of Americans put off care because of costs, up 12 percent from the previous year. This troubling trend can lead to more emergency room visits as providers don’t discover patients’ problems until they become life-threatening.

The patient is the new payer

The amount of patient financial responsibility is growing, with more than 30% of healthcare-provider revenue now being collected directly from patients. One of the challenges hospitals face in this new patient-as-payer reality is that current revenue cycle practices were designed around payer reimbursement, not patient payments. Historically, collecting from patients has been a lower priority, with many providers slow to send patient statements, sometimes weeks or months after service is provided.

These reactive collection processes are inefficient and ineffective, leaving some physician practices scrambling to recover outstanding revenue. According to one study, only 6% of physician practices collect on patient balances that are more than $200.

The new digital patient

These factors are leading to a new reality in the healthcare industry — organizations must incorporate technology to best serve today’s digitally savvy patients as well as allow patients to communicate and pay via their preferred channel. Patients who can’t communicate and pay digitally will become frustrated and, quite possibly, former patients. 

Healthcare organizations that previously shunned digital channels often did so believing that patients were hesitant to use them. However, a new survey of more than 2,000 U.S. citizens showed this to be false.

According to that survey, U.S. adults who receive bills or statements shared the following:

  • 64% think paying online is secure.
  • 65% prefer to pay regular monthly bills online (such as recurring medical bills).
  • 57% prefer to pay infrequent bills online (such as one-time medical bills).

Consumers have come to expect the same online conveniences from their healthcare organizations as they experience with other consumer businesses. However, they also expect to be treated as individuals — in a way that is relevant and tailored to them. Because consumer demographics will likely vary among different account portfolios, not everyone is going to be comfortable with all channels. So, understanding your consumers’ preferences is crucial.

The key to success

The economic and financial hardships facing today’s consumers will certainly pose some challenges for hospitals and healthcare organizations. But healthcare organizations that embrace innovative features, such as omnichannel communications, online payments, and advanced segmentation, will not only improve revenue recovery, but also improve the patient financial experience by understanding their patients’ behaviors, communication preferences, and the best times to deploy those communication attempts.

Raj Sethuraman
Raj Sethuraman

Raj Sethuraman is the Chief Product and Technology Officer at Finvi. Raj is responsible for product vision, product strategy, product engineering and software development activities for all products within Finvi’s portfolio. Raj has substantial leadership experience in formulating and launching product strategies, and driving technology transformations for global companies, including Intuit Inc., Wolters Kluwer, United Health Care Group, and Agilent Technologies.