5 thoughts on the future patient financial experience from Simplee's chief growth officer

Reframing the patient financial experience is a top strategic priority for hospitals looking to remain relevant in an increasingly consumer-driven industry.

Simplee is actively working to improve this experience. The Simplee Financial Engagement software platform is a patient engagement solution unifying hospital and physician estimates, statements, payments and credit. Since launching its enterprise platform in 2013, Simplee now works with nearly 900 hospitals and physician groups, and 5 million patients across the U.S. representing over $1 billion in annual payments.

Here, John Adractas, chief marketing and growth officer at Simplee, gives five thoughts on the patient financial experience.

1. Attention, trust and capability. The patient financial experience centers around three core areas — attention, trust and capability, according to Mr. Adractas. For a smooth experience, the patient must first have the hospital or health system's attention. Then the organization must show the patient information he or she can trust and understand. Hospitals and health systems may send the patient a statement that lacks details about the patient's care, or includes jargon. So the patient doesn't know how to translate it and figure out what they owe. But if the provider sends a detailed statement with more natural wording, then the patient understands his or her financial obligation and can focus on what they need to do to pay, Mr. Adractas says.

2. Combining marketing and the revenue cycle. Although an untraditional pairing, marketing and revenue cycle departments collaborate. When patients begin to trust a hospital or health system due to a good financial experience, the organization tends to collect more of what they're owed at a lower cost. The marketing department is also happy, as the revenue cycle department improves patient satisfaction. "What is happening is marketing is starting to see that the revenue cycle people now are learning to talk to patients in a way that catches their attention, and that becomes interesting to marketing," says Mr. Adractas.

3. Most hospitals' patient portals have a huge design flaw. Patients are beginning to expect the same level of convenience in paying their medical bills as they do for most of their other bills. In response to the growing consumer desire for electronic payment options, most hospitals and health systems have implemented online portals where patients can pay medical bills. But many of these portals aren't as effective as they could be due to a fundamental design flaw, says Mr. Adractas. "Most hospital sites aren't mobile responsive," which Mr. Adractas says is an increasingly critical component of the patient financial experience. In 2015, nearly 20 percent of all consumer payments were made on a mobile device, according a study by InstaMed. When patients try use their mobile device to pay medical bills on a website that is not mobile responsive, the experience can be frustrating and time-consuming, negatively impacting the patient financial experience.  

4. Real-time financial feedback is a game-changer. In Mr. Adractas' experience, patients want to talk about the positive and negative aspects of their medical experiences with both their peers and hospital leaders. The HCAHPS survey enables patients to rate hospitals on clinical and quality measures, but it doesn't give patients a place to reflect on their financial experience. It's important hospital leaders understand pain points in patient financial processes as these grievances influence patients' overall satisfaction levels and whether they recommend the facility to their peers. Connance's survey found patients who had negative billing experiences were five times more likely to talk about the experience with their peers, compared to those who had positive experiences. By implementing a simple survey option after patients pay their final bill, hospital executives can derive actionable insights into improving financial processes.

5. Cost estimation tools. With healthcare costs rising and patients shouldering an increasing portion of their medical bills, hospitals and physicians are feeling pressure to make healthcare prices more readily available. Nationally, the number of patients that requested upfront cost estimates rose dramatically from 6 percent in 2014 to 44 percent in 2015, according to a 2015 survey by TransUnion. Unfortunately, many hospital and health system executives have been slow to invest in cost estimation tools. "Increasing competition between hospitals for patients is driving executives to look at how other healthcare leaders are doing cost estimation, and there are those systems at the forefront who have already done this," says Mr. Adractas. "For hospitals that haven't implemented cost-estimation tools yet, it's only a matter of time."

 

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