Refining the Overall Patient Financial Experience

Updated on October 2, 2018

Screen Shot 2018 10 02 at 5.06.48 PMBy David Shelton

Imagine a healthcare system where providers and patients take an active role in the overall patient healthcare experience. An environment where the clinical and financial components of care meld together creating one perfectly formed patient healthcare journey from beginning to end. It is this amalgamated view of the patient experience that will enhance not only patient satisfaction but will cultivate the provider bottom line.

In today’s healthcare, providers invest heavily in a subset of the patient experience, which they often define as clinical care, communication with providers, facility cleanliness and other care-related attributes. While these are of utmost importance, a new, broader definition of patient experience has emerged. According to the Beryl Institute, a nonprofit organization that helps providers improve patient experience, a more relevant definition is, “the sum of all interactions shaped by an organization’s culture that influences patient perceptions across the continuum of care.” As rising deductibles and co-pays turn patients into payers, financial interactions must be part of the patient experience equation. The financial aspect of care should not be put aside as it is an essential component of a positive patient experience.

For many patients, the financial side of healthcare is the most confusing, frustrating and stressful aspect of care. This part of the experience usually begins at registration, where providers should—but often fail to—put their best foot forward. Payment conversations, which tend to be the same with every patient regardless of their financial situation, are often vague and uncomfortable. The result is disgruntled patients, frustrated staff, and low point-of-service (POS) collections.

A better approach is to provide registration staff with accurate bill estimation tools, a full view of patients’/guarantors’ financial information, and guidance on how to tailor conversations to individual circumstances. These increase staff members’ knowledge and confidence, so they can quickly and accurately explain available payment options and help patients make educated financial decisions. Staff productivity goes up, patients are more satisfied, and providers dramatically increase POS cash collections and payment plan usage. 

Delivering this level of customization and service requires robust technology implementation and support, data integration, defined workflows and a well-trained staff. Training is particularly critical. In many healthcare organizations, registration positions have the highest turnover and are the lowest paid in the business office, yet their work is the most scrutinized because of its effect on cash flow. Through continued investment in staff education, staff will gain a greater sense of job satisfaction which will improve staff motivation towards their work, increase productivity, and in turn reduce staff turnover.

Despite the significant impact of the patient financial experience on organizational performance, many providers lack the time and people to focus on it. Measurement tools are outdated and fragmented, information technology (IT) departments are maxed out and patient access teams are hard-pressed to take on one more project. Providers must take a different approach, looking outside their organization for technology, best practices, workflow and training to improve the overall patient financial experience. Implementing a technology infrastructure designed for customized patient-specific workflows and ongoing onsite staff training and coaching will ease the registration staff’s initial learning curve and strengthen their skills over time to garner positive results.

The benefits of improving the financial patient experience are tangible and often immediate. It is not unusual for hospitals implementing a customized system to see POS collections go up by 200 percent within 60 days. The need for early out services and multiple statements goes down, bad debt declines and cash flow improves. Patient behaviors also change. Patients become attuned to payment expectations and more readily fulfill their financial obligations because what they were told in the beginning matches what they owe at the end.           

As the patient experience continues to evolve, self-registration is on the horizon. Just as consumers conduct transactions online, patients will willingly do more for themselves, allowing providers to reduce costs and be more efficient. For forward-thinking hospitals and health systems who want to capitalize on these opportunities, creating the infrastructure to streamline registration and improve POS collections is the logical first step.      

PatientMatters brings compassion and consumerism to the financial experience of care, helping hospitals and health systems offer highly-personalized financial solutions that improve satisfaction, cash flow, profitability and outcomes. Based on decades of experience, the PatientMatters IntelliPass® System brings together a comprehensive set of patient payment and advocacy solutions, along with intelligent workflow automation tools to ensure every patient is satisfied and providers are appropriately compensated. PatientMatters serves over 130 hospital and health systems in over 350 locations across the country, providing cutting-edge technology, financial tools, process transformation services with staff training and support to help deliver a new level of consumer-friendly healthcare.

David Shelton is CEO of PatientMatters. You can find him on Twitter: @PatMatters.

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The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.