More on Billing and Collections

3 steps to engage patients with billing

The "consumerism" trend is causing hospital leadership to rethink patient engagement and the patient billing experience.

Tomer Shoval, Contributing Writer

With rising patient responsibility, a more powerful sense of "consumerism" has entered healthcare. A patient paying a significant medical bill is more likely to have high expectations of that experience and, similar to retail, customer satisfaction is becoming vital as patients begin exercising greater choice, both in how much to pay and where to receive care.

The consumerism trend is causing hospital leadership to rethink patient engagement and the patient billing experience. How a patient pays is important. As they say, the last impression is a lasting one.

Self-service billing and payment are commonplace in major industries such as retail, banking, and energy. By building a fast, easy and clear process, companies can make life easier for their customers. Studies show that 58 percent of consumers prefer self-service banking and 69 percent prefer to pay their energy bills online. Sixty-six percent of supermarkets have self-service checkouts accounting for over 25 percent of all transactions.

Overall, more than 50 percent of U.S. consumers across most household categories prefer self-service payment, yet healthcare adoption is stuck in the single digits. Why is there a 10x gap between consumer and healthcare self-service payments?

More importantly, how do we close this gap? Here are 3 steps to engage patients with billing.

1) Optimize for self-service

Simply providing online bill payment isn't enough. Hospitals must put patient experience first by optimizing a payment platform that is convenient and easy to use. An example is the airline check-in process.
Within a few years, the airline industry has radically changed. More than 8 in 10 travelers check-in online today. By developing mobile and online check-in options that are simple and easy to use, consumers can bypass customer service representatives.

2) Follow eCommerce practices that work

By optimizing for self-service and following best-in-class eCommerce practices, patients feel comfortable and behave in a way similar to their other experiences. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Anna M. Roth and Thomas H. Lee argue that healthcare needs less innovation and more imitation. Hospital CFOs and their revenue cycle teams are turning to the best practices of eCommerce and consumer internet experiences like Amazon 1-Click and ApplePay for inspiration. 

3) Track Patient Satisfaction

A survey sent with every bill can help hospitals effectively learn what is working in their patient revenue cycle, and what is going into HCAHPS surveys. Innovative groups such as El Camino Hospital and ValleyCare Health System (an affiliate of Stanford Health Care) have integrated engagement, billing and payment to unlock demand for self-service. On average, 80 percent of patients recommend these providers based on their recent payment experience alone.

Leading healthcare systems are finding that if they first center on the patient, all else will follow. By engaging patients as consumers, your revenue cycle can become a strategic advantage, leading to happier patients, higher collections and lower costs.

Tomer Shoval is CEO and a co-founder of Simplee. He founded Simplee as a way to help people better understand and manage their healthcare bills.