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When patients lose their way in the healthcare revenue cycle

Patient engagement expert Jan Oldenburg calls on hospitals to proactively make changes that enable consumers to access pricing information.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Healthcare pricing: Even when patients stop and ask for directions, it's hard to get the information they need. 

Most of what's available to patients, in fact, comes from insurers, apps and third party entities, and it shouldn't be that way, according to Patient Engagement Specialist Jan Oldenburg. As a result many patients are left deeply frustrated.

[Also: Providers take note: These simple strategies will improve billing, patient satisfaction]

She's got plenty of anecdotal evidence that patients are caught in a vortex of frustration, like one story of a client who tried to simply find the cost of an ultrasound. The man carried a $6500 deductible and wanted to be prepared. 

Oldenberg said it took 15 phone calls and web research to get to pricing information and what might be a reasonable price. Ultimately, he was billed the wrong amount and it took more phone calls to resolve that issue.

[Also: The case for standardizing best practices in discussing a patient's financial obligation]

"Providers really need to take the high ground when it comes to informing patients. There is a real opportunity for providers to make changes themselves rather than having them forced on them," Oldenburg said. 

That's just one example. But it points to why hospital finance leaders should act sooner rather than later to make pricing information more transparent to consumers. 

"Without attention to this issue, changes will be mandated and not necessarily in way that makes for better care or allows providers to tell them their own story in a way they'd like to," she added.  

Oldenburg is taking her message to the HIMSS18 Revenue Cycle Solutions Summit audience because she said these are the people who are in a position to inspire real change. "Consumer payment experiences are part of overall experience and if you don't pay attention to it, it can have negative consequences in how you are rated," Oldenburg said.

Jan Oldenburg will be speaking in the session, "Talking to Patients About Cost," scheduled for Monday, March 5th from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. in the Wynn Hotel.

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Twitter: @BethJSanborn
Email the writer: beth.sanborn@himssmedia.com

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