Complying with New Price Transparency Rulings Will Help with Building Patient Trust
After years of organization and lobbying, advocates for consumer protections finally achieved a significant victory with the passing of a federal healthcare price transparency rule that took effect on January 1, 2021. The new rule mandates that hospitals must post charges for 300 services in an online, consumer-friendly format such as a price estimation tool. The rule also demands that hospitals post a machine-readable file that details the pay-negotiated rates for all services, as well as the cash price offered to self-pay patients.
While the new rule is a boon for patients, it has forced hospitals to invest in new platforms and services, many of which hospital leaders claim do not actually provide patients with actionable financial information such as out-of-pocket costs. And with the penalty of non-compliance only assessed at $300 a day, hospital leaders may be tempted to not comply with the recent ruling.
Non-Compliance Will Erode Consumer Trust
Hospital leaders with an eye on the future, however, must resist the temptation to not comply. While the penalty for non-compliance is paltry – one publication referred to it as “a flea on an elephant financially” – the reality is that refusing to comply will bring on additional penalties of a much more significant magnitude.
Healthcare providers who choose to not comply with new transparency laws may take only a minimal financial in the form of legal penalties. But they will face much more substantial financial losses as their patients take their medical needs and concerns to more transparent healthcare organizations.
Research has conclusively shown that consumers of all ages are seeking transparency in healthcare costs. A recent AccessOne survey has found that 45% of all respondents say it’s very important that providers publish price lists of common procedures, and nearly 50% of Generation X – those born from the 1960’s to 1980’s – agreed, making price transparency an important feature for a generation now coordinating care for their children, parents, and themselves.
How to Ensure Transparency in Your Organization
It’s clear then that healthcare organizations must take transparency seriously across their financing and patient-facing operations. But what is the best way to ensure that transparency leads to better patient experiences and outcomes?
When it comes to building patient trust with transparency, it pays to be proactive and take the initiative. Here are three approaches that will foster open communication and improve financial literacy among your patients.
1. Initiate Conversations on Costs
Discussions about healthcare costs and financing can be intimidating for patients, especially for the uninsured. Bringing up concerns first can be a great way to initiate an open dialog with patients early on in their healthcare process. The evidence supports this.
Our survey showed that nearly three out of five consumers believe that it’s very important that providers share cost information before a procedure takes place, and about half want to discuss payment plans or financing. However, the survey also showed that 55% of respondents had not had such conversations with their providers. This opens up the opportunity for negative patient experiences and interactions, as well as a financial loss as patients shop around with providers who are more transparent with their pricing.
Our best practice recommendation is to connect with patients within 24 hours of providing an estimate. Patients are most likely to shop around for care at the beginning of their treatment when they can still weigh their financial options. Making a connection early on with your patients gives you the opportunity to walk them through your range of available payment plans and financing options.
2. Be Mindful of Your Patient’s Financial Literacy
It can be easy for your revenue team to immediately jump into discussions on deductibles, low-interest or no-interest financing or other financial terms without first addressing your patient’s level of financial literacy. Our survey results show that only two out of five consumers “somewhat” understand what expenses their health insurance will cover.
Additionally, many patients are often confused or intimidated by the complicated language found in billing or financial statements. This can be a significant barrier to care, as our survey has also shown that nearly half of all consumers would be “somewhat or very concerned” about their ability to pay for a medical bill less than $1,000. For your patients to feel comfortable with financing options, they’ll need to feel comfortable with your team’s explanations.
Focus on clearly outlining financial goals and responsibilities in simple language that can be understood by your entire audience. Be sure that terms such as “out-of-pocket cost”, “deductible”, “allowed amount”, or “out-of-pocket maximum” are clearly understood. It can be helpful to provide definitions of key terms on billing statements, as well as to provide explanations both before and after care.
3. Deliver Patients a Single Point of Contact
One of the most frustrating aspects of working through billing or financing options is being transferred from department to department. No one likes being put on hold or having to move through multiple points of contact. Pairing each individual patient with a single point of contact for their financial communications simplifies communication and encourages positive experiences. When a patient is given financial and billing continuity, they can develop a rapport with billing representatives who can anticipate their needs and deliver superior support.
One-to-one patient communications also bring greater confidence to your revenue teams when it comes to having financial conversations. The more familiar that your team grows with their individual patients, the better able they are to direct those patients to personalized solutions that fit their unique histories and economic situations.
Bringing Empathy and Compassion to Patient Financing
Building genuine trust with your patients will require more than simply providing price transparency. To truly build superior patient financing experiences, your teams need to provide access to both care and financing to the individuals who need it most. In 2021, healthcare providers should provide price transparency compliance as part of an overarching holistic approach to their patient’s financial care, ensuring that information is accessible, comprehensible, and actionable for patients.