When you're a major health system in Idaho, a state that didn't expand Medicaid and has both a low income and education level, and you're operating with 1,100 beds, 14,000 employees and a 40 percent risk-based revenue model, there's a big incentive to be efficient.
Beyond efficiency, Michael Rawdan, senior director of revenue cycle and patient experience at St. Luke's Health System, told attendees of his Revenue Cycle Solutions Summit presentation "The Patient Behind the Bill: Creating a more satisfying financial journey" that redefining a patient's financial journey is worth the effort because not only does it influence patient satisfaction, but it also boosts payment performance.
Following a paper and digital survey on St. Luke's financial/billing experience, the writing was on the wall, with only 28 percent of patients expressing satisfaction. That's a pretty solid F, according to Rawdan, who is also a college professor.
Patients said they didn't understand their bills, endured long waits when calling into call centers, got inconsistent answers from those call centers, and were frustrated with the lack of a digital pay or view bill option. He shared the information with the system's senior leadership.
"When I showed them this information, the answer was, 'Wow, we need to do something about this,'" Rawdan said.
They knew they had to get charity applications turned around faster and develop longer-term payment plans, as well as improve in other areas, and they sorely needed a digital platform. Patients wanted to be able to pay online, make payment arrangements online after viewing their options and even have the ability to marry the accounts for different family members under one account with a head of household function so that one person could manage the whole family's dealings.
They also installed scoring and segmentation into revenue cycle operations and focused their resources on those who were most likely to pay to increase efficiency.
St. Luke's listened and implemented a digital solution that had these capabilities and, since 70 percent of its patients were still using paper statements, it overhauled those statements to make them easier to interpret.
It worked. Rawdan said St. Luke's went from 28 percent satisfaction to 57 percent, with patients at least saying it is doing a lot better than it was.
St. Luke's also saw a 29 percent improvement in its yield, and cost to collect dropped 57 percent.
Rawdan said the morals to their story are that financial experience can improve yields and costs at the same time and it's important to listen to your patients and empower them to help themselves through automation and self-servicing.
"We treat all patients different from a clinical perspective," he said. "Why would we think we should treat them the same financially?"
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