By Laurie Heavey, VP Strategic Marketing
Spurred by the need to treat the patient as a payer, along with continued calls for price transparency, more health systems are having the financial conversation earlier in the patient care process. Today, the patient financial journey begins with pre-service scheduling. During pre-service conversations, patients typically want an estimate of their out-of-pocket cost and expect a health system to offer payment options. The ClearBalance® 2018 Healthcare Consumerism study affirms that most consumers aren’t surprised by the financial conversation prior to care. In fact, many welcome it. Ninety-four percent of respondents expect your financial counselors to describe payment options and 79 percent will ask about their choices. This is your opportunity to not only ensure a positive financial experience for your patients early in the care process, but to lay the groundwork for the next time they need care. The patient financial journey should be a cohesive dialogue that starts with pre-service/Access, has touchpoints throughout the patient’s care episode, and is reinforced with post-care engagement.
For most Americans, the average annual deductible is more than they have available in savings. Studies show many consumers delay or forego care because they think they can’t afford it. Your counselors help alleviate this concern by navigating patients to an appropriate payment path, whether it’s financial assistance, a short-term or long-term payment plan.
Onsite registration provides an opportunity to reinforce the pre-service conversation, with estimated amounts owed and payment plan options, along with quick, easy enrollment. Even during the care process, non-invasive verbal and digital reminders serve to keep patients engaged and give them peace of mind. With reassurance of options to address their cost, patients can focus on their care.
Discharge is another opportunity to address the financial journey with a discharge plan that combines care follow-up orders and a reminder of next steps for out-of-pocket costs. These gentle reminders (digital, verbal or print as the patient prefers) go a long way to dispel confusion about the billing process and what patients should expect next. If the patient’s appropriate financial path is a long-term payment plan, there’s a seamless transfer from your billing process to that plan’s activation. Ultimately, having a long-term payment plan in place also makes it an easy decision for patients to return to your system the next time they need care. You’ve essentially eliminated cost as a barrier, replacing it with the convenience of an affordable payment plan.
Our Pre-service to Next Service Patient Financial Journey proactively incorporates and communicates the ClearBalance patient financing program as an integral component of your health system’s consumer-driven financial policy. This approach eases patients’ concerns about their out-of-pocket costs, gives them reassurance throughout their care episode, and positions your health system as the logical, affordable choice the next time they need care.