5 things every finance leader should know about patient financial concerns related to COVID-19

Amid the financial fallout driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, it's critical that hospitals and health systems focus on building trust with consumers by offering billing transparency and a convenient, compassionate financial experience, presenters concluded during an Oct. 6 session sponsored by CareCredit at the Becker's Healthcare HIT + RCM Virtual Event. During the session, presenters discussed the patient financial experience and provided insights from recent surveys and research.

Presenters were:

  • Tim Donovan, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at CareCredit
  • Steven Merahn, MD, CMO of Essen Health Ventures

Five takeaways from the discussion:

1. Even before the pandemic, patients changed their healthcare behaviors due to costs. A 2019 CareCredit survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 to 69 found that 43 percent said they or a family member had changed their behavior regarding medical visits/procedures due to costs. As an example, Dr. Merahn referenced his own experience putting off an elective procedure. "There was an elective procedure that was recommended for me last year, and we were looking at all of the issues around that particular elective procedure, and there were some other expenses in the family," he explained. "I've got two school-aged children, and there were some child related expenses that we were looking at and ultimately ended up putting off the elective procedure purely from a cash management perspective."

2. Patients are facing unexpected out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Instamed's Trends in Healthcare Payments Tenth Annual Report published in April found that 91 percent of consumers were surprised by a medical bill in 2019. And these surprise medical bills can negatively affect the provider-patient relationship if not handled properly, Mr. Donovan noted. CareCredit's 2019 survey found 65 percent of patients would consider switching providers after receiving an unexpectedly high bill, and 59 percent said they would consider switching if "office staff could not tell me the cost" of a visit or procedure.

3. Americans are anxious about out-of-pocket costs. The Physicians Foundation's 2019 Survey of America's Patients found 73 percent of respondents are concerned about being able to pay for medical treatment if they get sick or injured. Even more concerning, Mr. Donovan noted that an estimated 27 million Americans lost employer-sponsored health insurance and became uninsured due to a job loss from March 1 to May 2, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

4. Payment solutions are available for patients. Ninety-one percent of CareCredit cardholders surveyed in June said they plan to use their card as much or more than usual in the next six months. "The good news is that there are solutions available and patients want to know about them," Mr. Donovan said. "We did a study with our own cardholders, and these are people who have a way to pay for care through a financing solution. It's still very important for them under the current circumstances to have that solution."

5. Healthcare providers should ask patients about economic barriers. Dr. Merahn recommended nurses, physicians and other providers not probe about someone's personal finances, but ask whether there are economic barriers to achieving their healthcare goals. "There's a model in healthcare called shared decision-making. It really becomes critically important to kind of engage the patient in the process of decision-making in terms of, 'What's the goal we're trying to achieve?'"

To view the session on-demand, click here. To learn more about CareCredit, click here.

This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, (collectively, “Synchrony”) makes no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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