3 thoughts on how to improve patient financial experience

With the rise of consumerism, hospitals and health systems continuously seek to improve patient financial experience.

James Green, a national partner with Advisory Board's revenue cycle management division, recently spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about how revenue cycle workflows and patient interactions can collaborate to achieve this goal.

Here are three thoughts from Mr. Green on how to improve patient financial experience.

1. Know your patients and what they want. Many healthcare organizations rely on customer service calls they receive on the back end of the revenue cycle to develop an understanding of what patients' ideal financial experience looks like, according to Mr. Green. But one problem with that is most calls are inquiries, which are not always indicative of patients' desires. "The inquiries are not that helpful because really what you get from there is what the patient does not know because usually they're asking a question about [a] bill they don't understand, or they're asking about the billing process," he says.

The other problem, according to Mr. Green, is healthcare organizations rely on focus groups to weigh in on possible billing improvements. This means the organization is going to the same group of patients, which typically have loyalty to the system, for input. "What you get is perspective from loyal patients, which doesn't say how patient financial experience is driving loyalty," says Mr. Green. "But what you want to get out of patient financial experience is an expansion of your brand and expansion of your loyalty so you are driving both brand recognition and ultimately incremental revenue."

Overall, Advisory Board recommends an open-ended, unbiased market survey to understand what patients want as far as billing improvements and financial services.

2. Be willing to create a workflow that works for your patient, not just for you. Throughout the revenue cycle process, healthcare organizations have significantly more contact with payers than with patients, according to Mr. Green. He notes the contact with patients generally comes when patients register, but then patients aren't contacted again until the hospital or health system is adjudicating bills on the back end. To improve this process, Mr. Green recommends healthcare organizations implement a revenue cycle workflow that is more convenient for the patient. This includes providing multiple ways for patients to pay their bills, consolidated bills that include the entire continuum of care and more convenient scheduling. "Patients want the workflow in terms of communication...to be accessible to them and not just to make lives easier from the health system side," says Mr. Green.

3. Have a comprehensive and informative communication plan with patients. By doing this, patients see the various ways hospitals and health systems are making themselves accessible, according to Mr. Green. "It makes no sense to have convenient channels of access if you haven't communicated it well," he says. For example, he says relying on a billboard alone is not an effective way to communicate with patients, as most patients don't receive their healthcare information that way. Regarding the patient financial experience, Mr. Green says a healthcare organization's website and staff are key components to a strong communication strategy. "A comprehensive, clear website, and well-trained call center staff are not only critical components of the patient financial experience, but also more critical and impactful to patient communication than simply running an ad," he says. "Of course, merely saying you have a great patient financial experience in ads and marketing collateral is not sufficient — you actually have to demonstrate it by providing a positive patient financial experience."



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