Preparing for Financial Wellness and Other Key Learning Discussed During the Latest Becker's Advisory Board Call

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Healthcare leaders convened during the Becker's Hospital Review Advisory Board Call on June 2, 2021 to discuss healthcare's evolution to transform the patient financial experience and how it impacts healthcare institutions' financial performance. As hospitals and health systems increasingly explore ways to improve their revenue cycle management practices and look for ways to create a sustainable financial infrastructure, they are also prioritizing the patient experience.

As we emerge from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there is an increasing demand for expanded payment options to support virtual care encounters. Hospitals, physician practices and health systems are actively working to improve the patient financial experience with innovative payment solutions that make healthcare more accessible at all stages of the patient journey.

During the Advisory Board Call, an elite group of executives from across the healthcare ecosystem gathered to discuss key learnings from the past year and innovative financial approaches they are taking to better support patients, providers and their organizations. Following are key takeaways from the Advisory Board conversation.

Integrating initiatives to deliver a positive financial experience for patients

Putting patient financial needs at the forefront of the conversation, participants discussed how they are addressing unique needs for their patient populations. This includes healthcare organizations providing organizational training for staff members to answer questions about a patient's financial responsibility and the significance of provider organizations and health systems proactively offering patient financing solutions before, during and after care delivery.

Shannon Burke, senior vice president and general manager of health systems, Synchrony Health and Wellness, shared that, "It is definitely something that CareCredit thinks about, how we provide training both to the providers themselves to help facilitate those difficult conversations. Revenue cycle management teams and the finance teams are the unsung heroes in health systems. The doctors and the clinical teams will always be in the spotlight. At the same time, we must recognize the important work that RCM financial teams are doing, often behind the scenes."

In fact, "The CareCredit, CWH Advisors Patient Pay Survey found that patients want more transparency around cost, payment products and plan options from their healthcare providers before receiving care1," explained Burke.

Healthcare organization staff should engage patients in upfront financial conversations ahead of treatments, such as family planning or elective surgery. Staff can also speak with families about how unplanned expenses like emergency department visits can arise and how patients can secure payment options in advance to ensure they have a way to pay.

"At Spectrum Health, we have a dedicated training team within our revenue cycle. This team develops the scripting, education materials, and online webinars. We push this training out to ambulatory, inpatient and all frontline staff to ensure we deliver a consistent experience to patients. This training is essential in preparing staff to anticipate some of those difficult, crucial conversations you may have with the patient," shared Amy N. Assenmacher, senior vice president revenue assurance, Spectrum Health.

In this rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, a knowledgeable administrative staff will be better equipped to adapt to regulation changes around healthcare billing and address them before they become issues that can negatively impact an organization's ability to manage the process. Organizations and patients can work through these changes together and find solutions that work for both parties. For example, they can use an online patient portal that integrates the healthcare billing system into a patient's electronic medical records.

 Laura Handy Dineen, executive director, operations and infrastructure, AdventHealth, explained, "We built out our estimation tools so they [staff] can really see what the patient will owe. This empowers our staff to better support patients in financial planning. We also have a revenue cycle training team that focuses on these kinds of conversations. In addition, we implemented financial counseling at the beginning and on the back end as well. Typically, it has been thought that customer service reps handle these financial counseling conversations. Instead, we made that the highest position in the revenue cycle, because it's important that people providing this financial counseling understand the entire revenue cycle. In addition to understanding the various financing options, they need to understand patient segmentation."

Healthcare decision-makers understand that they have an opportunity to integrate new financing solutions to take on both sides of care access and workflow—working with health systems to improve the entire patient experience by helping them pay for the care they need in ways that help the individual.

Some of the key points along the patient journey where these financing options can be a differentiator for healthcare practices include:

  • A relationship-building tool: Helping patients understand payment options and secure credit before care is needed, so they can easily manage the best path forward for healthcare payments.
  • To improve point-of-service: Options that help navigate the point of service, taking the uncertainty out of care decisions for patients and providers.
  • When bills are received: Transparent payment options offered as a routine part of billing to eliminate unexpected costs and take the pressure out of stressful situations.

Kimberly Hodgkinson, CFO, Mount Carmel Health System, shared how "It's important to think of the financial experience as an offshoot of clinical care, as a part of the whole experience. Many of the people who serve in those capacities for the revenue cycle don't really ever talk to the patient. Usually, when they're talking to the patient, it's because someone isn't happy. So, it's really thinking, how are they helping the patient? That financial healing component is so critical around the whole person."

Burke elaborated with how "It's about really tailoring our (CareCredit) tools and thinking about the consumer and their needs differently. Simultaneously, we need to consider the frontline and back-office staff. What are their needs throughout that journey with that patient? What tools are they using? I think that looks very different today than it has historically. But it's all in that context of that full patient journey—that full experience the evolving consumer and their changing expectations."

Enabling financial wellness and minimizing provider risk

The pandemic reinforced the need for flexible payment options to enable more people to get the care they need without the health system assuming the payment risk or collection expense. Reconciling payments faster and reducing administrative time on billing is more valuable than ever. Healthcare organizations should look to offer patients flexible payment options for medical expenses not covered by insurance.

CareCredit found that patients want to have conversations with their hospitals, health systems and providers about healthcare payment products and see them as partners that will help them identify ways to improve how they pay over time.1 Sixty-three percent of all patients and 85 percent of younger patients (aged 18-34) would consider point-of-service (POS) financing for their healthcare bills.1 In all, consumers want healthcare providers to offer flexible payment options like credit and debit cards.1

Addressing the patient demand for flexible and convenient payment options help enable health systems to sustain their business and improve their revenue cycle management. When it comes to paying for healthcare, patients seek convenient, digital payments and reliable options that allow them to fit medical costs into their budget and pay over time in a way that works for them and their families. For health systems, leveraging user-friendly technologies like mobile apps and contactless payment options can be a way to help patients understand the costs of their care while empowering them to make more informed financial decisions.

Adrienne Moore, executive director, revenue assurance, Banner Health, explained, "We're seeing our younger consumers with different expectations. There is an abundance of financing options that younger adults are seeing, which are geared toward folks who are building credit or have no credit. We have an opportunity to share the message that some of our financing options could actually help them on that journey—to make people more comfortable with using financing options. We're seeing a change in the demographic of folks who are financing care with that shift in the patient becoming the payer."

Proactively helping patients understand their copays, deductibles and options to make payments easier is a valuable opportunity to build loyalty and stand out. To stay ahead of the curve, Advisory Board Call participants agreed they should seek reputable third-party solutions that enable them to not only empower patients, but also to build trust by meeting their evolving needs and expectations.

Burke explains, "The last experience that a patient has with the health system on payment is going to have a big influence...that final payment experience is critical in how they view their satisfaction of their overall care journey."

Reference:

1 CWH Advisors. (2021, March 24). CareCredit, CWH Advisors Patient Pay Survey Finds Majority of Patients Would Consider Financing Options to Pay Healthcare Costs. https://www.cwhadvisors.com/post/carecredit-cwh-advisors-patient-pay-survey-finds-majority-of-patients-would-consider-financing-options-to-pay-healthcarecosts

 

 

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