Healthcare Consumerism Study shows patients need financing options

Where patient satisfaction was once solely measured from a clinical standpoint, patients are increasingly judging and rating their satisfaction with healthcare organizations by the amount of repeat business and referrals they bring.

Since 1992, ClearBalance has partnered with health systems to provide consumer-centric affordable care while improving net recovery of patient pay and overall financial performance. We recently conducted a study to measure awareness, loyalty and satisfaction with that program.

The second annual Healthcare Consumerism Study was sent out in August, completed by nearly 2,700 patients. Of those survey respondents, healthcare cost was undeniably a concern: 79 percent stated that it was a factor when selecting a physician, and 81 percent stated the same when choosing a healthcare provider.

Relative to their cost concerns, one out of every three consumers stated they would delay care if a loan program wasn't made available to them. So, while cost is a factor for patients when selecting a specific physician or healthcare provider, the availability of a loan program is still critical in the decision-making process.

One survey respondent said, "It's helpful not to have to pay a large, unexpected medical bill all at once." This seemed to be a common opinion amongst respondents, as an overwhelming 91 percent stated that healthcare was an expense that required financing of more than 12 months.

Of those who use the ClearBalance program, more than half reported their annual insurance deductible to be $3,000 or less. Seventy-two percent of respondents depended on their employer-provided insurance to help cover medical costs. A loan helps to fill the gap for out-of-pocket expenses, regardless of the cost.

"A surprising amount of people with private insurance . . . simply do not have the resources to pay their deductibles," said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Age groups among survey respondents were distributed fairly equally, with those between the ages of 35 and 50 (Generation X) making up 31 percent of respondents, those between the ages of 51 and 61 (Baby Boomers) making up 28 percent, and those between the ages of 22 and 34 (Millennials) making up 22 percent. Individuals between the ages of 62 and 72 totaled 16 percent; those over the age of 73 came in at 2 percent.

"The ClearBalance program is a great option to manage healthcare expenses in conjunction with my healthcare savings account," said a survey respondent.

Loyalty is an important barometer of future business. According to The Advisory Board Company, patients who return to a healthcare organization within 18 months generate six times more revenue for that provider. Making care affordable through a loan program is a clear benefit that will enhance goodwill, loyalty and referrals within a healthcare provider's consumer and community base.

Nearly all (97 percent) survey respondents stated that a healthcare provider offering the ClearBalance program was providing a community benefit. Ninety percent of respondents said they would likely return to a healthcare provider that offered the ClearBalance loan program, and 88 percent said they would likely recommend the healthcare provider to friends and family.

Many survey respondents were "repeat users" of the program, taking advantage of the revolving line of credit made available to them to cover additional medical expenses. Ninety-five percent of respondents said they would use the ClearBalance program to help cover their cost of future medical needs.

Our attention and focus to managing only healthcare-related credit accounts is evident in continued high performance and satisfaction scores, as noted in this year's survey findings. Nearly half of the respondents have called our Patient Experience Center to ask questions about their ClearBalance account. Of that group, 95 percent were very satisfied with the representative they dealt with.

Our online patient portal allows patients to check their account balance, make a payment or update their information at their convenience. Eighty-five percent of respondents utilize this service to keep their healthcare financing in order.

There is a high degree of loyalty and satisfaction with our program and services, as reflected in the overwhelmingly positive ratings in this year's responses. This goodwill extends to healthcare providers that offer ClearBalance as well.

"I'm happy there's a reasonable payment method to manage medical debt versus being turned over to a collection agency," said a survey respondent.

Our program enables patients to easily pay their medicals costs and engenders loyalty, positioning the health system as the care location of choice within the community. There is a rapidly growing need for healthcare financing. ClearBalance has been filling that need for patients and providers for over 20 years.

Bruce Haupt
President and CEO, ClearBalance
(858) 200-9200

About the Author

Bruce Haupt is responsible for the business operations of ClearBalance, from sales and marketing through client implementation, program performance, funding, IT and client services. He joined the company in 2013 as senior vice president of sales and marketing, bringing a focus and discipline that has enabled ClearBalance to improve its industry leadership position. Bruce has 25 years' healthcare and IT experience at large corporations, including McKesson and IBM.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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