Patient Experience Needs to Play a Bigger Role in Your Payment and Billing Process

Operating revenue cycle and patient experience in separate silos doesn't make sense in an era when the patient is responsible for more of a hospital's revenue.

For many healthcare organizations, revenue cycle and patient experience departments operate independently of one another. However, as patient payment responsibility continues to increase, revenue goals and patient experience goals intersect more frequently. Recent results from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) show that patient satisfaction matters when it comes to your bottom line: hospitals with excellent HCAHPS patient ratings between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7% compared to just 1.8% for hospitals with low ratings.

Patients believe every aspect of their healthcare encounter contributes to their care, including the payment and billing process. A negative payments experience could impact a patient’s overall impression of a healthcare organization, even if the rest of their experience was positive. According to 2015 HCAHPS survey results, patient satisfaction ratings fall by an average of more than 30% from post-discharge through the billing process.

If your vice president of Patient Experience had a seat at the revenue cycle table, the 2 teams would be able to identify opportunities where a better payments experience could improve overall patient satisfaction, and positively impact revenue goals. Consider the following touchpoints along the patient billing and payment process as examples of where the patient experience and payment experience can converge to achieve shared goals.

Check-in is the first opportunity to have a conversation with patients about their payment responsibility. The Seventh Annual Trends in Healthcare Payments Report confirmed that 92% of consumers want to know payment responsibility prior to a provider visit. It’s important to be able to look up a patient’s eligibility and deliver an estimate of what they will have to pay. With increasing patient responsibility and more patients enrolling in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), patients may owe more than they expect. Now is the time to start talking about convenient options for payment, such as payment plans and automated payments. Give patients all the necessary information they need, be upfront about patient responsibility and make sure staff are prepared to respond to any questions or objections patients may have.

After patient checkout it is critical to continue communication, as billing is often the most frustrating process for patients. Consider that 74% of consumers are confused by their medical bills and EOBs (Seventh Annual Trends in Healthcare Payments Report). Combat this confusion by delivering an easy-to-understand bill that clearly displays what patients owe and offers simple instructions for how to make a payment, including how to pay online. Once they’re on your patient portal, give them the option to manage their payment and communication preferences including:

  • Signing up for eStatements to eliminate the confusion of mailed paper bills
  • Managing a digital wallet to store payment methods on file for future transactions
  • Setting up payment plans and automated payments so patients never miss a payment
  • Opting-in for text message communications

When billing is clear, patients are happier. Happy patients can mean higher patient retention and recruitment for your organization, as patients who are satisfied with billing are five times more likely to recommend a provider (2015 HCAHPS survey).

The patient experience doesn’t live outside of the payment experience. Consider every touchpoint as an opportunity to deliver a positive experience, especially touchpoints related to billing and payment. Be sure to deliver clear communication about payment responsibility upfront and throughout the payment process, and remember that every communication, including statements, is an opportunity to leave a good impression.

About the Author

Chris Seib is the chief technology officer and co-founder at Instamed. Before founding InstaMed, Chris was an executive in Accenture’s Health and Life Sciences practice. Chris has been involved in strategic development efforts regarding government health initiatives, consumer-directed health plans and direct connectivity between providers and payers. Chris has certifications and expertise in programming, architecture, user experience, database technologies, networks, network architecture, security and project management. Chris is a named inventor of multiple patents and patent applications held by InstaMed.

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