Patient billing needs a digital revamp: Tips to meet expectations, improve satisfaction

Consumers are growing accustomed to an Amazon-like shopping experience, where payments are easy, online and flexible. Yet many patients still don't have this seamless billing experience in healthcare. 

As a result of growing consumer demand, hospitals and other organizations must prioritize transparency, flexibility and ease of these transactions to improve collections and the patient financial experience. In a March 4 webinar sponsored by Flywire and hosted by Becker's Hospital Review, three industry experts discussed how to improve transparency, affordability and patient satisfaction by digitizing the payment experience.

The presenters were:

  • John Talaga, general manager and executive vice president, Flywire
  • Raj Aggarwal, chief growth and strategy officer, Panda Health
  • Tim Kinney, partner, Guidehouse

Four key takeaways from the webinar:

1. Healthcare is behind other sectors in digital transformation, but there is an emphasis on catching up. A lot more health systems are hiring chief digital officers or transformation leaders to help meet consumer demand for digitization, Mr. Kinney said. 

"It is not a want anymore. It is a need for the digitization of our environment, and you're seeing it prioritized a lot more," Mr. Kinney said. 

2. Healthcare should tap into the rise of the subscription economy. The subscription economy has propelled a trend known as buy now and pay later, which helps consumers pay for items with large price tags, Mr. Talaga said. Since medical care is often an unplanned but necessary expense, healthcare providers should present patients the option to pay over time. Flywire helps health systems leverage this trend by applying data and analytics to identify patients' capacity to pay, thereby making flexible payment plans a strategic advantage, Mr. Talaga shared.  

3. Healthcare billing is complex, but that doesn't mean paying should be difficult for patients. Dr. Aggarwal shared a story about imagining if a gym was run the same way the U.S. health system approached billing.

"Imagine if over and above the monthly fee that you pay, each time you turned up you needed a [preauthorization], whether you were going to use the treadmill, the exercise cycle or a set of weights. Then there was a copay to use each device over and above the monthly fee that you pay. You weren't aware, but the Peloton was in network and the Life Fitness machine is out of network," Dr. Aggarwal said.

Imagining this scenario highlights the need for a better consumer experience when it comes to making payments in healthcare, he said.

4. When selecting a solution, talk to peers and don't rely too much on demo and price. The panelists shared several tips for selecting a patient financial experience solution. Dr. Aggarwal said he encourages health systems to talk to their peers to see what solutions worked at their organizations. Mr. Talaga said the most common mistake he sees is that health systems focus too much on demo and price, which don't drive results. Mr. Kinney recommended starting with outlining the goals of a potential partnership so the vendor and health system are on the same page about what they are trying to accomplish.  

To learn more about the digitized consumer revolution and Flywire's patient financial experience solution, listen to the full webinar here

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