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Selecting the right vendor is key to improving the patient financial experience, finds KLAS

Important factors include interactive voice response and email communication from the vendor denoting a patient's responsibility.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Fostering a positive financial experience for patients – and thereby capturing a more steady stream of revenue – is critical as healthcare organizations deal with the financial uncertainty created by COVID-19 and other industry forces. In that context, picking an appropriate vendor partner becomes critically important, and requires insight into the market for patient financial engagement platforms.

A new KLAS report attempts to shed some light on that market. Several factors have to work together to deliver a clear path to financial resolution.

Among those factors are intelligent interactive voice response and email communication from the vendor denoting a patient's responsibility. A text-to-pay option, allowing patients to pay providers directly through links sent to their devices, also boosts the patient financial experience and can help hospitals and health systems capture more revenue.

Patient portals – patient-facing tools that accelerate collections and increase provider efficiency – are increasingly common, as are structured payment plan options that increase revenue and provide flexibility for consumers. Printed and digital communications notify patients of their financial responsibility and also are factoring into healthcare organizations' vendor choices.

KLAS' goal was to provide a comprehensive analysis of these vendors and their relative strengths and weaknesses.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

When it comes to patient engagement platforms, Flywire, Patientco and RevSpring are the most established in the market, while Patientco in particular is described as highly engaged in making sure customers succeed and is highly responsive when concerns or problems arise. They listen to client requests and also proactively reach out with offers to help, KLAS found.

RevSpring scales to both small and large customers, who highlight the vendor's broad, omni-channel functionality and strategic use of print and digital statements, which have been complemented by updates to the digital platform. Clients using recent upgrades report a dramatic improvement in satisfaction. 

Flywire feedback comes from its customers – who are mostly smaller, stand-alone organizations – as well as legacy Simplee customers (acquired in early 2020), who include many larger clients. The solutions deliver much of the functionality customers need and enable them to receive patient feedback regarding financial concerns.

All vendors were found to meet the need for patient engagement, with Patientco excelling. The latter's customers are very happy with their vendor's patient engagement efforts, describing Patientco as a partner that is highly engaged in improving the patient financial experience.

VisitPay is highlighted for their analytics and reporting, which customers say facilitate better understanding of and better interactions with patients. Cedar customers appreciate that their technology can be custom-tailored to the patient, helping improve the overall experience. Combined feedback on Flywire and RevSpring – the vendors with the largest, most diverse customer bases – is more mixed, but still positive overall. Customers say their technology simplifies the payment process and has been commented on positively by patients.

VisitPay and Cedar stood out for their messaging capabilities, with the former supplying adaptable, optimized messaging tools that cover virtually any scenario, and the latter platform learning the message times and cadence that are most likely to yield a response from a given patient. 

Across vendors, interviewed organizations say that a payment portal is vital to simplifying the payment process and driving additional revenue. While most portals offer similar functionality, Cedar's portal is seen as simple to use, and so speeds up the payment process and enhances patient satisfaction.

The report also analyzed patient financing services firms AccessOne, CarePayment and ClearBalance Healthcare, finding that ClearBalance had the highest overall performance score, though scores for all firms were high. 

THE LARGER TREND

Dr. Scott Hebert, a physical therapist and director of product management at Phoenix, Arizona-based WebPT, said in a HIMSS20 digital presentation earlier this year that patient satisfaction data can be misleading, even if the data was gathered in a robust and systematic way.

That's partly because of something called the "ceiling effect," which is essentially a problem in the sampling data. Many patient satisfaction surveys are administered toward the end of care, and because of this satisfaction scores tend to be through the roof. They're being submitted, after all, by patients who have reached the end of their care journey and have likely already experienced a positive outcome.

There's also a problem with environmental bias. In the physical therapy world – the world with which Hebert is the most acquainted – patients are often asked to rate their satisfaction in front of their treating therapist.

Hebert said loyalty is truly the key when it comes to patient retention, and is a better indicator of repeat business.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com