The future of healthcare consumerism: 4 takeaways on industry trends and strategies for success

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Patients are increasingly bringing consumer expectations to their healthcare interactions, looking for transparency and payment flexibility. 

Providers, meanwhile, are looking to make these types of experiences a reality.

As part of Becker's Hospital Review 11th Annual Meeting in May, CareCredit sponsored a virtual featured session. CareCredit Chief Marketing Officer Tim Donovan described how patients are behaving as consumers and offered actionable tips for providers. 

Four key takeaways were:

1. Think of patients as consumers and provide price transparency. Patients face rising costs as insurance changes and deductibles rise, having "a serious impact on how people think about the tradeoffs when it comes to cost of care decisions," Mr. Donovan said. 

As consumers, patients expect the same types of information and the same level of convenience when making healthcare decisions as when making other types of purchasing decisions. Unwelcome surprises after care has been delivered affect patients' future provider choices. Providers are aware of the shift in patients' mindsets and are increasingly treating patients as customers, providing tools like online cost estimates and making information readily available and understood, especially for common treatments and tests.

2. Providers are overcoming barriers to have effective conversations with patients about costs. Financial conversations raise social taboos, but it is critical to overcome these hurdles and train staff to discuss costs with patients. Providers must adapt to the reality of patient as consumer. "We need to find ways to make it easy," Mr. Donovan said. 

Staff must be ready to navigate increasingly complex insurance offerings and overcome discomfort about their role in these conversations. The most important step is to be attuned to the patient and normalize this aspect of the patient-provider dynamic. This is best accomplished by a standard financial questionnaire used with all patients to identify cost concerns and avoid making assumptions. These conversations should be nonjudgmental, clear and action oriented. 

3. Providers need to offer flexible payment options. It is important for providers to recognize that patients have different needs, concerns and preferences, encompassing both acute financial challenges and longer-term planning. Patients want solutions and options from their providers and are embracing digital in healthcare as in other aspects of life. Some options to consider are digital payments, P2P (such as Zelle and Venmo), dedicated healthcare credit cards, and financing and monthly payments.

Payment plans benefit both patients, who can move forward with treatment without delay, and providers. By enabling payment over time, providers not only better meet patients' needs and improve retention, but they also reduce administrative costs for billing and collection and improve staff morale.

4. It is important to integrate payment and cost discussions throughout the patient journey. Providers increasingly think about patients' experience in terms of the "patient journey." This journey often begins when scheduling an appointment, proceeds to the point of care and continues to checkout and invoicing. 

Providers need to help patients feel informed and empowered at every stage of the journey, through clear and transparent communication and user-friendly tools. "Make conversations around cost and care easy and routine," Mr. Donovan said. Payment options should include online choices, perhaps involving a dedicated patient app.

To learn more about this session, click here.

 

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