How St. Luke's University Health Network sees pricing as a competitive differentiator

Consumerism is the new reality in healthcare. Healthcare providers no longer compete simply with the hospital down the road; they now compete with online retailers who offer customers convenience, personalization and self-service.

This content is sponsored by Simplee

At Becker's Hospital Review's 10th Annual Meeting in Chicago, Simplee hosted a workshop that explored how St. Luke's University Health Network is addressing affordability by providing transparent patient pricing online.

Bethlehem, Pa.-based St. Luke's University Health Network is a 10-hospital system with approximately 13,000 employees and 1,300 physicians. For five consecutive years, the organization has received the IBM Watson Top 100 Hospitals award. Richard Madison, St. Luke's network vice president of revenue cycle, shared how the PriceChecker tool is enhancing patient satisfaction.

Financial concerns can impact clinical care

The revenue cycle bookends the care that healthcare systems provide to patients. Even if patients receive high-quality care, the revenue cycle can still result in a negative experience. Statistics show that patients are even more concerned about healthcare bills than they are about getting sick.

"Two in five patients skip recommended medical tests or treatments, due to affordability. We understand that healthcare costs are a top issue for people. As a result, price transparency is foremost in our mind. We want patients to understand what their financial exposure will be for healthcare services," explained Mr. Madison.

Taking the Mystery Out of Healthcare Prices

About three years ago, St. Luke's partnered with Simplee to develop its PriceChecker website. This intuitive, self-service tool provides patients with retail pricing for services.

"If you need a chest X-ray, but you don't have insurance, you can use PriceChecker to get an all-inclusive, bundled, pre-pay cash price for the service. You pay for your service, schedule the appointment, get the service and then you're done," said Mr. Madison.

Patients can also enter their insurance information to get a side-by-side comparison of their insurance price and the PriceChecker retail price. Over the past three years, the volume of patients using PriceChecker has tripled. On average, over 110 patients visit the site each day.

A proactive approach to affordability

On the back end of the revenue cycle, St. Luke's uses Simplee's platform to determine a patient's capacity to pay by applying predictive analytics to demographic and behavioral data and then sends the patient an email regarding their bill.

"If a patient has a low propensity to pay, the email recommends a payment plan. If a patient has a high propensity to pay, the email recommends paying in full. The St. Luke's payment portal also enables patients to create their own payment plans," noted Mr. Madison.

The majority of patients who want to pay now do so online (85 percent) and 39 percent of payments come through a mobile device. St. Luke's has also seen a 27 percent increase in the total number of payment plans.

Patient satisfaction is up

Based on Net Promoter Scores, it's clear that St. Luke's patients are pleased with the organization's transparent approach to pricing. The Net Promoter Score for PriceChecker is 38 and the Net Promoter Score for St. Luke's payment portal is 50. This is significantly higher than the average Net Promoter Score in healthcare of 23. PriceChecker’s Net Promoter Score is comparable to prestigious high tech and retail brands. For example, Google's score is 50, Mercedes Benz's is 39 and The Gap's is 30.

"The retail-like experience is already here in healthcare. We've found, however, at St. Luke's that digital self-service for pricing and payments can be a win for patients and for us. I believe the financial experience can be a patient satisfier and complement quality healthcare," said Mr. Madison.


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