Providing Flexibility and Empathy During a Loss of Coverage
Healthcare affordability and the rising cost of coverage are major concerns for millions of Americans. In 2018, over half of Americans had either delayed or canceled necessary medical treatments due to cost. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated issues in healthcare affordability. Millions of Americans have required pandemic related healthcare treatments while millions more have lost jobs and the employer-provided health insurance that came with them. The result is that in the first half of 2020, less than 50% of working Americans had stable health insurance.
Healthcare providers and revenue cycle teams need to adapt and shift within this sobering reality to maintain both patient trust and retention, as well as keep their practices financially viable. The fact is that today’s patients are likely to be under significant financial stress and burdens due to the unique hardships of 2020. The unfortunate result is that financially stressed patients often put off medical care due to its perceived unaffordability. Thus, healthcare providers must engage with potential patients before treatments are perceived as out-of-reach.
Reducing Patient Stress with Accurate Estimates
Delivering treatment cost estimates can be the difference between losing patients to delayed care or winning patient retention. In a recent article by AccessOne CEO Mark Spinner, Spinner mentions that one of the easiest actions providers can take to retain patients and prevent treatment delay is giving accurate estimates.
Immediately after estimates are given, revenue cycle teams should follow-up with patients and ensure that the following pieces of the estimate are accurate and reflect the patient’s financial situation.
- Out-of-pocket estimates should always factor in a patient’s existing coverage
- Any opportunity for financial assistance, including charity care, should be discussed with the patient. If a patient has experienced a job loss due to the pandemic, payment relief plans may be available.
- Present flexible and affordable payment plans and options including low-interest and no-interest financing.
When engaging with patients, revenue cycle teams should contact patients early and often throughout the treatment process to ensure that affordability is being addressed. Because patients are likely to put off care entirely once, they deem it unaffordable, revenue cycle teams must catch them before that determination is made. Patient engagement should occur within the first 24-hours of a given estimate.
Once patients are contacted, revenue cycle teams should begin by determining if the estimate is accurate and correctly accounts for potential insurance coverage. Doing this can prevent sticker shock as well as inaccurate billing. Next, team members can provide a walkthrough of available payment, financing, or assistance plans. Revenue cycle teams can then educate patients on potential options or even enroll them directly.
This provides obvious benefits to patients. First, patients who are more comfortable about their ability to pay for care will feel much more confident in pursuing their intended treatment. Patients will also be much more likely to reach out to billing offices for further questions if they’ve already established a contact point early in the revenue and treatment cycle.
Finally, patients who receive accurate estimates with engaging revenue cycle team members are much more likely to pursue treatment as well as have positive experiences that keep them loyal to their healthcare providers.
Simplifying Communications with a Single Point of Contact
Giving patients a single point of contact for billing questions and concerns can help to cut down on attrition and churn. No one enjoys being put on hold or having to navigate multiple phone lines. Reducing interactions to a single contact portal helps patients feel more engaged and connected.
A great example of this is North Carolina’s Atrium Health. At Atrium Health, all patients are provided with a single phone number for all billing concerns. This helps their revenue cycle teams simplify patient interactions, and greatly cuts down service fragmentation. On top of that, Atrium Health provides their team with a “Revenue Cycle 101” training so that they are better able to answer patient questions.
Plans that Work for Patients
Finally, it’s important that payment and financing plans bring real relief to patients. Each of the patients coming to your healthcare center are arriving under different financial means. Many may have lost health insurance coverage due to the pandemic. Others may have limited financial resources due to employment hours being cut or additional expenses such as childcare. It’s essential that your revenue teams offer flexibility in payment plans. Offering a plan that allows patients to maintain financial dignity as well as solvency will go a long way towards building both positive customer experiences as well as steady revenue cycles.
Flexibility can refer to payment amounts as well as monthly terms. Giving patients the option to decrease monthly payments in return for longer terms can help reduce financial burdens and allow patients to more consistently make payments. Flexibility is backed by data. When surveyed, 52% reported positively to the opportunity to lower monthly payments when necessary.
AccessOne and Bridging the Financial Divide
Ultimately, providing empathy and flexibility towards patients is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also the most financially sound. When patients receive fair and flexible terms, they are more likely to comfortably make payments, as well as make payments on time. One of the best vehicles for these types of plans are third-party patient financing solutions such as AccessOne.
AccessOne provides low-interest and zero-interest financing with generous monthly term limits. All patients qualify and plans can be tailored to fit individual needs. Using a third-party for patient financing also frees up your staff to focus on other initiatives. When plans are focused on meeting patient needs and concerns, the results are increased total payouts as well as greater patient loyalty and satisfaction.