Financial and patient engagement strategies in 2021: 4 notes for healthcare leaders

November 20, 2020

Heading into 2021, healthcare organizations are dealing with unprecedented financial challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic and working to sustain digital advances made to increase patient engagement.

One of the best ways healthcare organizations can protect their revenue streams and improve engagement in the new year is by meeting patient expectations of convenience, flexibility and transparency. 

Below are four tips for healthcare organizations to boost their bottom line, while improving patient engagement.

1. Anticipate a surge in elective care. This spring, many healthcare organizations were forced to postpone elective procedures to preserve bed capacity and resources. While many providers have resumed elective care, the recent resurgence of COVID-19 has required providers in some parts of the U.S. to voluntarily reschedule these surgeries once again, adding to the elective procedure backlog. A May 2020 study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery suggests the backlog may reach more than 1 million cases for spinal fusions and joint replacements in the field of orthopedic surgery alone. Heading into 2021, healthcare organizations must grapple with the surgical backlog by having a well-defined patient access strategy and ensuring patients feel safe seeking care at a hospital or outpatient clinic amid a pandemic.

2. Prepare for the sustained use of telehealth. Telehealth is set to maintain a more prominent position in the U.S. healthcare system even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, according to an October report from Moody’s Investors Service. The COVID-19 pandemic solidified the use of telehealth as a viable alternative to in-person care due to its convenience for patients and ability to cut overhead costs for providers. However, providers must work with government and commercial payers to ensure they are being reimbursed properly for care delivered virtually.

3. Work to eliminate friction in the patient payment process. To boost patients’ financial experience and engagement, healthcare organizations should implement convenient and flexible payment options for patients. Through leveraging a modernized revenue cycle management solution, providers can enable patients to use customized payment plans, view their bills on any device and facilitate online payments. With the right solution, this can also improve a provider’s ability to get paid for services delivered.

4. Improve price transparency, regardless of if the CMS rule is postponed. CMS issued a final rule Nov. 15 that requires healthcare organizations to disclose the rates they negotiate with insurers beginning in 2021. Although the pandemic may delay the onset of the rule, one thing remains clear: Patients want price transparency. In 2021, providers should look to help patients better understand what they are paying for by leveraging digital tools like a price estimator. 

Overall, as providers adjust to the new normal in 2021, they will find that consumer preferences for convenience, flexibility and transparency are even stronger than before the pandemic. From booking appointments to bill pay, digital solutions can help providers meet these patient preferences to boost engagement, while simultaneously protecting their bottom lines.

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