Prevention = Retention: Health & Wellness as a Patient Experience Driver

Erin Gadhavi, SVP, CareCredit Strategy & Initiatives - Print  | 

Providers play an important role in helping patients take a proactive, preventive approach to improving and sustaining their health and quality of life.

By considering financial barriers to care as a social determinant of health, providers can help patients make the best choices by acknowledging the possibility of cost concerns and offering advice or solutions to help patients with their out-of-pocket obligations. In addition to helping patients enjoy better health for longer, this can also benefit providers by strengthening patient relationships, enhancing the patient experience, and encouraging retention and referrals.

Improving the patient experience by prioritizing wellness

As out-of-pocket healthcare spending rises1, patients may take a less proactive approach in seeking preventative care, simply due to the fact that they don't think they can afford care. Delaying or declining care due to cost concerns may result in surprise health conditions and long-term consequences such as an increased risk of developing a chronic illness. If left unmanaged, treatment may be more difficult or costly, requiring greater effort or a longer course of treatment and making optimal health outcomes harder to achieve.

Providers have a unique opportunity to prioritize wellness conversations to help patients understand risks, prepare for potential conditions, and develop a game plan to address their financial concerns. Addressing preventative care in an open and honest way can actually be a welcomed conversation and take fear out of the unknown. Providers can help patients feel invested in their own care and empowered to make the right choices for their health and wellness. Patients feel supported by providers who want the same thing — the ability to move forward with care without delay, achieve the best possible health outcomes and do so in a way that is financially sustainable.

Being well-informed and working together to find the best way forward can be a positive experience for all involved. Patients will appreciate knowing they have a provider they can trust to help them navigate their wellness journey.

Improving retention and building a practice through prevention

Nationally, Americans use preventative services at about half the recommended rate.2 With preventative care severely underutilized, there is a major opportunity for providers to have a positive impact by focusing more on prevention with their patients.

Every interaction with a patient is an opportunity to deliver a better healthcare experience and build a stronger relationship. Whether it's a health screening, a test or even a simple conversation, emphasizing the power of prevention allows providers to demonstrate their concern for patients' long-term health and wellness. Addressing the financial aspects of care expands on this by showing that providers understand the challenges patients may be facing, and that they want to help patients overcome any barriers to getting the care they want and need. In addition to potential health benefits, this approach can help providers earn patients' trust and loyalty, which can contribute to patient retention, satisfaction and potential referrals.

Reaching even one patient with a message and means to inspire better preventive care can make a difference, and over time and at scale, this effort can help improve population health and impact overall healthcare spending.

Encouraging and prioritizing proactive wellness with communication tools

Healthcare organizations may struggle to move the needle on preventative care when patients are unwilling or unable to engage. With technology integrated in so many aspects of modern life, patients may expect healthcare to be the same, seeking highly personalized, engaged experiences incorporating digital or mobile technology. In fact, 64 percent of patients we surveyed prefer digital channels for receiving practice announcements and appointment reminders.3

This trend is only encouraged by the parallel trend of rising out-of-pocket spending. As patients pay more out-of-pocket to cover a larger share of costs, it's natural for them to have higher expectations about what they'll receive as a result. These expectations may include personalized treatment, exceptional service and an omnichannel customer experience.

In addition to incorporating technology directly by doing more with digital and mobile channels for patient communications, providers can also express interest and share ideas related to patient-driven health and financial technology. For example, providers can encourage patients to live healthier lives by using wearable technology that monitors heart rate, physical activity, sleep duration and quality, and other biometrics. Providers can use this data in assessing health and recommending treatment, but it also helps increase patients' awareness of these indicators, the importance of monitoring them, and how they can help detect risks for heart disease, strokes, heart attacks, and other serious health concerns. There are also many free or inexpensive apps that offer features like data management and patient engagement capabilities that can help individuals address their unique needs.

Self-monitoring and accountability are two important habits when it comes to prevention. With technology, providers have the opportunity to connect with their patients at anytime, anywhere and keep prevention at the forefront.

Paying and planning wellness

Despite the benefits of preventive care, patients may not prioritize it because of financial barriers. Out-of-pocket medical expenses are rising4 and enrollment in high-deductible plans increased 20 percent between 2013 and 2018,5 leading patients to bear increased financial responsibility for their own care. Unsurprisingly, in a recent survey, 64 percent of patients with high-deductible health plans said they had delayed care to avoid out-of-pocket costs.4

Especially when experiencing stress or feeling overwhelmed by a new or worsening health issue, concerns about how to pay for treatment may be severe. Providers who take a proactive approach to financial matters have an opportunity to engage patients in productive conversations about their costs and payment options that can help patients feel informed and empowered to make the best choices for their health and budget. In addition, providers who offer cost transparency and innovative solutions may be able to help more patients with their recommended course of treatment that encourages better health outcomes and a healthier bottom line for practices.

For example, a dedicated healthcare credit card like CareCredit can give patients a consistent way to pay for deductibles, copays and out-of-pocket expenses without tying up payment methods used for other life expenses.* Promotional financing offered by a third-party solution like CareCredit offers an additional benefit by enabling patients to move forward with care right away and make monthly payments over time with deferred or reduced interest.*

No matter what the specific approach and message, providers likely can't go wrong by adopting a more proactive approach to preventive health. By helping patients feel informed and empowered when it comes to their physical and financial health, providers can make a real difference — for individual patients, entire communities, their organizations and the system overall.

1 InstaMed, Trends in Healthcare Payments Eighth Annual Report: 2017, published May 2018
2 Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Preventive Health Care, https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/PreventiveHealth.html, September 15, 2017
3 CareCredit Cardholder Engagement Study Q2 2018
4 Financial Advisor, Christopher Robbins, “High Deductibles Lead Americans to Delay Health Care” November 2, 2016
5 2018 Employer Health Benefits Survey, Kaiser Family Foundation, September 2018

*Subject to credit approval. Minimum monthly payments required. See carecredit.com for details.

This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, (collectively, “Synchrony”) makes no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

 

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