Kettering Health saw its self-service payments climb 41% in 2 months — Here's how

The patient financial experience has a lasting impression on patients' overall perception of care quality and can determine whether patients return or recommend a hospital's service to someone else.

That's because every patient experience is bookended by a financial discussion. At the beginning, patients ask, "What will this treatment cost me?" At the end of their clinical care journey, they ask, "How will I pay for this?" 

The rise of high-deductible health plans and patient self-service payments has complicated these questions for patients and providers, John Dwight, chief revenue officer at patient payment platform Simplee, said during a June 10 webinar sponsored by Simplee and hosted by Becker's Hospital Review. Two leaders from one of Simplee's partners, Dayton, Ohio-based Kettering Health Network, joined Mr. Dwight in the discussion: JoAnn Yohn, vice president of revenue cycle, and Jana Mixon, network director of patient access and central scheduling.

"The desire is for patients to think about their experience inside the hospital as something that drives how they feel about the hospital," Mr. Dwight said. "You want to be known for what's happening within interactions and all the people inside the episode of care. But from a patient perspective, that episode really starts and ends with these two financial questions."

Kettering Health's approach

In an effort to improve its patient financial experience, Kettering Health implemented Simplee's solution. The health system is live on Epic and uses the EHR's MyChart platform, but doesn't have a large adoption rate among its patients.

"We weren't meeting the patient where they were at," Ms. Yohn said. "We had to get into the heads of our patients. We needed something that was patient-focused, not Kettering Health Network-focused."

When it comes to motivating patients to pay, there is a gap between their willingness to pay and their understanding of the payment process. According to a recent WayStar analysis, 85 percent of patients feel the same responsibility to pay for healthcare as they do for other professional services. Still, just 20 percent of patients say it's easy to understand and convenient to pay for their medical bills.

One reason for this discrepancy is patients have consumer expectations that are rooted in retail. Americans are used to services being provided in a convenient setting, in a personalized and self-sufficient way, whenever they want it.

"Our competition is no longer operating across town or other states. We're competing with the retailers. We're competing with people who have honed in on making this process easier," said Ms. Mixon.

Success with a digital, self-service financial experience

For today's digitally focused consumers, a great patient financial experience starts with an intuitive, online payment platform. Kettering Health's 2,100 physicians serve patients across nine hospitals and more than 120 outpatient facilities. Kettering Health Network rolled out Simplee's solution systemwide to ensure a more consumer-centric patient financial experience before and after patients enter their care journey.

Using Simplee's platform, Kettering Health patients have one-click access to plain-language information about their billing and payments via the health system's online homepage. Once taken to the payment dashboard, patients have a consolidated view of their billing experience, with each charge corresponding to a specific physician, visit or service.

When patients click "make a payment," they have an option to pay the bill in full, pay a one-time amount or set up their own self-service payment plan that meets the system's criteria. For example, a patient with a $3,010.91 bill can choose to pay $250 every month to pay off the bill in just over a year.

After deploying Simplee in January 2019, Kettering Health has seen an 87 percent increase in online payments, a significant increase in online transactions compared to the health system's prior EHR experience. Its self service payments have grown 41 percent in two months.

"Like Kettering, any health system that's truly looking to provide a great end-to-end patient experience has to also think about patients' financial experience in addition to what's actually happening inside the care journey," Mr. Dwight said.

To view the webinar, click here.

To learn more about Simplee, click here.

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