By Tomer Shoval
It’s always a fascinating exercise to step back and envision the future 5-10 years down the road. Case in point: Deloitte Life Sciences and Health Care’s recently released predictions for health in 2040. While it included some interesting perspectives on how data exchange and operations would evolve, it struck me there was a glaring gap: patient financial experience.
Much in healthcare is ripe for innovation, but perhaps no aspect demands more urgent change than how patients understand and afford healthcare bills. Without meaningful progress we will continue to see patients avoid medical care and hospital bottom lines sink.
Fortunately, there are abundant signs of emerging change. With those in mind, here then are my top five predictions for patient financial experience in 2030:
REAL estimates for all
I applaud the CMS for initiating the first step towards price transparency by requiring hospitals to post their chargemasters online. But it truly is only the first baby step. Asking patients to decipher their actual out of pocket costs from a chargemaster is like estimating the cost of a t-shirt by the price of cotton.
Patients demand a true out of pocket estimate for their visit. Fortunately, forward thinking hospitals are pushing ahead on their own with an experience that will be the norm by 2030: personalized out of pocket estimates available 24/7 through a digital experience.
In the very near future, we will look back at the quaint days of excel spreadsheets online and calls during business hours to hospital staff to interpret predicted costs with the same bewilderment that we use when remembering having to ask a convenience store clerk to select all the items off the shelf from our shopping list.
Mobile payments become standard
Americans of all ages have become accustomed to making purchases large and small on their cell phone. From toothpaste to cross country airline tickets, there is almost no limit to the types of payments consumers now routinely make on mobile devices.
Even with consumers’ growing familiarity with mobile bill pay, the percentage of healthcare payments made via mobile device remains stuck in the single digits. As health systems embrace a more consumer-centric mentality around the patient financial experience, we will see healthcare billing experiences that are designed mobile first.
The natural result will be an increasing uptake in the number of patients using their phone, rather than their checkbook, to make healthcare payments.
One bill to rule them all
Amazon has trained consumers to expect to pay one bill, regardless of how many items you purchase or how many merchants you patronize during a visit to the website. So is it any wonder patients are confused when a trip to the hospital results in separate bills from the hospital, physician, radiologist, lab, etc?
As health system consolidation continues, systems will increasingly look to bridge the gap between in-house owned services and affiliated services to create a unified financial experience for the patient across both. Like with mobile payments, these will be digital-first environments that deliver on the promise of convenience and clarity.
Personalized financial care
Just as no doctor would use a one-size-fits-all treatment plan for patients, health systems can no longer use a standard approach for all patient bills. Pioneering systems have already begun using customized payment paths to meet every patient’s unique budget.
Powered by insights mined via predictive analytics, health systems will proactively serve up a payment option for well-off patient that directs them to pay their bill in full while a patient of lesser means will receive discounts and an extended payment plan for the same bill amount. The end result will be financial support for those that need it the most, helping to bolster the frequency and quality of medical care received.
Healthcare gets social
There is no healthcare future in which medical payments will mirror peer-to-peer payment apps with a list of purchases punctuated by emojis. However, consumers will introduce social networking into healthcare through feedback and recommendations.
The financial experience is often the first (estimated cost) and last (final bill) touchpoint a patient has with a health system. Increasingly, patient ratings for these book end experiences indicate their overall impression of the hospital. In the future, consumers will commonly look to patient ratings of hospitals as a key decision criteria for selecting a place of care, much as diners look to Yelp ratings to determine where they will eat dinner.