How to build a better financial experience through the EHR: Lessons from CommonSpirit and Penn Highlands

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Direct patient payments have become an increasingly critical source of revenue. However, many patients have traditionally not had easy access to payment information or online payment portals.

During a May webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Flywire, John Talaga, executive vice president and general manager of healthcare for Flywire, discussed the positive impact of self-service portals on patient engagement and payment at DuBois, Pa.-based Penn Highlands Healthcare and Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health. He spoke with two senior financial leaders:

  • Heather Schneider, senior vice president and system CFO, Penn Highlands Healthcare
  • Mack Wright, system director of revenue cycle, CommonSpirit Health

Five key takeaways:

1. American patients pay directly for a significant share of healthcare and want upfront cost estimates and more financial information from their providers. Historically, EHRs have not offered the financial information and payment capabilities patients and providers need.

Flywire changes that by integrating payment with EHR systems to drive improved patient payment response. "The endgame is to increase patient satisfaction and at the same time get patients to pay more," Mr. Talaga said.

2. To use financial portals, patients need to understand their benefits. Most patients don't automatically gravitate toward using their healthcare provider's financial portal; they need staff to remind them at every engagement point and they need to understand how the portal benefits them.

Ms. Schneider said that before using Flywire, the biggest complaint she heard from patients was they couldn't understand their bills. "Now they can see their full liability, which makes a big difference," she said. Showing estimates, bills and breakdowns online, as well as offering payment plan options and allowing patients to make payments, has helped drive portal use.

3. Flywire provides patients a consistent experience, regardless of the provider's EHR. Although CommonSpirit Health uses five different core EHR systems across its environment, this health system was able to provide patients with consolidated billing and patient-friendly statements. "The reason that we want to partner with someone like Flywire is that they can integrate and provide that consistent experience for the patients, regardless of the core system," Mr. Wright said.

4. Portals need to be easy to use or patients won't use them. Both health systems recognized usability as critical to getting patients to use the portal. "You can try to engage people all day long, but if the tool doesn't work easily, they're not going to use it," Mr. Wright observed. Ms. Schneider also discussed the importance of focusing on the population, noting that Penn Highlands has a large senior population.

5. Financial portals increase payments. In approximately six weeks since going live with Flywire, Penn Highlands has seen a 137 percent increase in payment plan adoption, and balances are reasonable, at an average of $626. At CommonSpirit Health, 78 percent of payment plans are now done through the portal.

To register for future webinars, click here.

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