Two in five consumers say they would switch providers to access affordable payment options, according to our recent survey. But administering healthcare payment plans can present significant challenges for healthcare organizations—and administrative headaches.

How do payment plans present challenges for providers? Manual upkeep processes, such as keeping track of payment terms and changing payment terms when patients’ financial circumstances change, often are inefficient. These tasks also take staff attention away from other priorities.

Yet with healthcare costs rising 12 percent across all settings of care, consumer surveys show hospitals need to offer affordable payment options—whether on their own or with a financing partner. Nearly half of consumers with children are willing to switch providers for more affordable payment options, our survey found.

How can hospitals develop the right patient financing strategy while limiting administrative stress? Here are three tips.

Provide self-service options for account management and payment. Consider providing patients with the opportunity to self-enroll in payment plans prior to service and make payments to their account online. Leading organizations, such as Atrium Health in Charlotte, N.C., also enable patients to change the terms of their agreement—for example, moving from a zero-interest to a low-interest payment plan with longer terms—when the amount of their monthly payment becomes difficult to handle. This approach takes the pressure off hospital staff to accept and record payments and manage payment terms. It also enables patients to direct their financial experience—creating a positive impression that remains after the care encounter is over.

Another way to provide payment flexibility? Enable patients to combine all hospital and physician accounts into a single payment plan. This tactic lessens the administrative burden of payment plan processing while supporting improved patient financial satisfaction.

Consider a financing partner where it makes sense. For example, at Atrium Health, the health system formerly operated an internal program for patients who needed financing plans of six months or less. However, the administrative challenges of running an internal financing program—from managing payments and payment terms to staying on top of accounts that have fallen behind—proved to be time-consuming. Ultimately, Atrium Health chose to partner with AccessOne to manage a range of patient financing options. Today, patients are more actively engaged in managing their payments—and more satisfied with their overall experience of care. Meanwhile, the program has boosted the organization’s financial health, increasing collections.

A More Modern, Less Stressful Approach

With administrative costs comprising 25 percent of healthcare spending, looking for ways to satisfy patients’ desire for flexible payment options while eliminating the administrative headaches associated with payment plan processing is critical. By exploring options such as self-service, flexible options, and partnerships, hospitals become better positioned to meet patients’ needs while reducing administrative burden and expense.