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As patient responsibility jumps 29%, providers to focus on patient-centric payment solutions

Black Book revenue cycle survey finds 83 percent of providers plan to employ more retail-like technology solutions and practices.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

It's a new era of patient payment technology that requires more financing options, engaging patients early, analyzing consumers' propensity to pay, managing expectations and achieving true cost transparency.

Those are the broad findings from Black Book's new 2017 Revenue Cycle Management Surveys, based on a research study designed to track consumer satisfaction and patient experience trends, as well as uncover payment challenges and strategies for healthcare provider organizations.

Among the findings is that 83 percent of providers surveyed plan to meet the rise in patient consumerism with more retail-like technology solutions and practices.

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[Also: Black Book ranks top population health vendors]

"Emerging healthcare pay trends reveal the opportunity to help patients better anticipate, manage and track the costs of their care," said Black Book Managing Partner Doug Brown. "Innovative, patient-friendly payment solutions that meet consumer preferences and enable fast transactions are playing a key role in this transition."

Black Book conducted two sets of focused polls in the second and third quarter of this year with both patients and providers. The consumer panel surveys aimed to determine how responsibility for medical costs, which shifted from employers to patients, is impacting uncollected provider revenue.

[Also: Healthgrades names top hospitals for patient experience in 2017; See the list]

Since 2015, patients have experienced a 29.4 percent increase in both deductible and out-of-pocket maximum costs, with an average deductible for consumers this year averaging $1,820, and out-of-pocket costs rising to over $4,400. The combined surveys included 2,698 providers and a focused group of 850 healthcare consumers with high-deductible health plans.

With millions of dollars of unpaid medical bills, many providers are instituting new processes and technologies to recover the money owed them.

[Also: Revenue cycle, medical record platforms start driving patient experience for smaller practices]

"Employing these solutions at the front end of the revenue cycle has given patient risk to providers and the attention has turned to establishing funding mechanisms to benefit not only the hospital or physician but the consumer," said Brown. "Patients truly are the new payers."

Further results showed that in the first half of 2017, nearly 62 percent of medical bills were paid online, and 95 percent of consumers polled would pay online if the provider's website had the option. And 71 percent of patients revealed that mobile pay and billing alerts have improved their actual satisfaction with the provider.

Online estimation, payment plan administration, and on-demand instructions support -- all of which ranked by consumers in the top five improvements providers could make to improve satisfaction -- produce more cost transparency for consumers, the survey found.

Guest pay (allowing spouses, family members, friends, attorneys and others to pay one's bills without accessing one's medical record) is also improving consumer satisfaction. In fact, 59 percent of consumers attributed the convenience and simplicity of online payments without the hassles of registration and passwords.

Among the other key findings: 89 percent of provider financial administrators expect that healthcare payments will be made on phones and mobile devices by the fourth quarter of 2018, yet only 20 percent are currently ready for electronic payments other than checks, cash or credit/debit cards; 83 percent of physician practices under five practitioners said the slow payment of high-deductible plan patients are their top collection challenge, followed at 81 percent by the difficulties that practice staff have at communicating patient payment accountability.

Meanwhile, the three patient payment features in highest demand from the provider perspective are managing consumer expectations through insurance eligibility verification prior to appointment (91 percent); transparency via cost estimation, essential to prepare consumers on what they will pay (85 percent); and convenience enhancements making payments convenient for patients (87 percent).

Providers also scored 32 vendors of patient payment systems on 18 key performance indicators, determining that Navicure is the top-rated technology in the 2017 Black Book revenue cycle management functions client experience survey.

Other vendors scoring high marks in client satisfaction were Experian, Patientco, Change Healthcare, InstaMed and nThrive.

Twitter: @JELagasse
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