How a dynamic patient billing system increases profitability and customer satisfaction

The rise of high-deductible health plans has made patients the number one payer for some healthcare organizations, creating a necessary shift in the way that providers are collecting payments to ensure both financial stability and patient satisfaction.

During a Zotec Partners-sponsored session at Becker's 10th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable, three revenue cycle experts from Zotec Partners discussed current billing challenges and how a personalized, dynamic payment system can help improve both and the customer experience. Zotec Partners presenters were: Morten Bruhn, chief success officer, David Law, chief client officer, and Sarah Mountford, vice president of client relationships.

Four key takeaways were:

  1. Changing patient behaviors and expectations are forcing changes in billing processes. According to Managed Care Executive, 59 percent of patients expect the healthcare digital experience to be similar to their retail experience and 75 percent won't pay the medical bill if it's confusing.

"Patients want and expect empathy when they call," Mr. Law said. "They want to understand that the way they pay their bills is secure, and they want innovative, easy-to-use solutions. In addition, we've seen a 111 percent increase in deductibles, which means the deductibles that patients must pay are outpacing increases in workers' earnings by three times ."

The California Healthcare Foundation reported that 28 percent of healthcare expenditures are now paid for by the individual or family . "For the first time, the average deductible is exceeding the average spend in healthcare," he said. "All that money has been shifted to the patients to pay, and providers now have to do more to collect it."

  1. External factors impact existing billing processes. "We have rising inflation and average costs are going up, so we have to collect as much as possible," Mr. Bruhn said. "We have to react to things like the No Surprises Act and changing rules around credit collection agencies. As of January 1, the three large credit bureaus agreed to not report on medical debt less than $500 and increase the length of when they can report from six months to a year. They are losing their leverage to collect on small balances."
  1. Focusing on billing cycle innovation as well as personalization can increase patient satisfaction and can decrease bad debt. "First, patients want to be able to pay anytime they want 24/7, from anywhere in the world and through any method," Ms. Mountford said. "Second, we need innovative solutions to improve bad debt, followed by personalized, empathetic and authentic care. Finally, we want trust; we want to make sure our data is secure." Innovative solutions include revenue cycle management automation, payment plans and guarantor outreach.

Zotec works to customize and personalize the patient billing experience. "Statement letters, outbound calls, text messaging, email — there's a cost associated with all of these," Mr. Bruhn said. Zotec communicates through each patient's preferred channel to expedite the whole process. "Our dynamic model works to take some of that cost out and get the billing out more quickly, which gives customers a better experience. Everyone wins."

  1. By constantly innovating the digital experience for patients, health systems can significantly increase collections and patient satisfaction. For example, since COVID, health systems have seen a 184 percent increase in payment plans. "As patients' deductibles go up, we need to set up more payment plans," Mr. Law said. "If health savings accounts get funded through a business payroll, we can go in and auto scrape that money out of the account so the patient doesn't have to touch the bill and the provider receives their money." SingleCare found that when offered a payment plan, 59 percent of patients pay in full in an average of 5.5 months.

"We measure patient satisfaction at the end of every experience, and we've been able to achieve better Google reviews and Net Promoter Scores because of the easy-to-use digital experience we have developed," Mr. Law said.

With more of the payment burden falling on patients, health systems must improve the way they collect. Personalizing the collection channel to meet changing preferences of patients is one way to take friction out of the process, increase revenue and delight customers.

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