Edward-Elmhurst uses AI/ML to deliver seamless, personal payment plans for healthcare

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As patients demand more consumer-friendly payment experiences, hospitals must find ways to deliver cost-effective, easy-to-use, self-service, customized options. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies can help facilitate this effort, using data to drive communication, payment schedules and collections.

During an August webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Flywire, John Talaga, executive vice president of healthcare at Flywire, led a discussion with Greg Arnold, system vice president at Edward-Elmhurst Health — a large integrated health system in Illinois — about how the organization implemented a seamless, personal and more effective payment plan system.

Four key insights:

  1. Americans are concerned about rising medical costs, often take drastic measures to pay bills and desire a streamlined billing system with payment plans. According to a recent consumer survey conducted by Flywire, 85 percent of Americans are concerned about rising medical costs and almost half can't afford to pay a lump-sum balance. As a result, 40 percent have postponed care. Between 10 and 20 percent have had to borrow money, postpone a large purchase or even sell their house to pay medical bills. "We also found that 84 percent [of consumers] believe the healthcare payment system needs to be streamlined, and 77 percent want to be able to pay by installments," Mr. Talaga said. "Buy-now, pay-later is commonplace with consumers, and they are expecting it from their health system." 

  2. Several key elements are necessary for an effective digital engagement strategy. Hospitals with an effective digital engagement strategy leverage ML to provide more personalization and automate engagement to drive adoption. They have remote, self-service payment options that integrate with the EHR. They find ways to make costs more affordable through payment plans, discounts and financial assistance, and they enable instant communication for real-time answers to queries. They also build a personal conversation profile that uses and coordinates text, email, chat and paper communications. "These pillars will drive response, increase collections and interactions and improve patient satisfaction," Mr. Talaga said.

  3. Edward-Elmhurst provides a seamless, integrated patient financial journey. "We want to be pure Epic, but also want tools like Flywire that will help augment what Epic does," Mr. Arnold explained. Ensuring that technology partners can seamlessly integrate into your core EHR platform helps reduce friction around the billing and payment process, thereby minimizing patient confusion.

  4. The same, ever-growing repository of information is used by all parties to make data-driven decisions. Whether a patient is using the self-serve system, a customer representative is answering a call or a professional is having an early-out discussion, they are all viewing the same data repository at Edward-Elmhurst. "Data drives how we come up with payment plans and include patients' history and their propensity to pay," Mr. Arnold said. "We try to make it very personal to the individual patient."

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