COVID-19 has radically changed and impacted nearly every aspect of our daily lives. From social distancing and self-quarantines, to employment and home stability, this pandemic is forcing everyone to rethink how they get things done. The healthcare industry is no different. Doctors, practice managers, and providers are thinking critically about how they can still focus on the same great care experiences at a time when nothing feels normal.
However, the healthcare industry is one of great imagination and ideas, and even in these uncertain times, this presents opportunities for innovation. Even prior to COVID-19, it’s been clear that patients desire the same consumer-driven options they receive from other industries. This idea of “healthcare consumerism,” means that organizations must provide services and billing in a convenient, secure format that carefully preserves the distinctive patient-provider business relationship. And in this new age of COVID-19, and the prevailing feeling of a lack of control, this push for customer-focused efficiency couldn’t come at a better time.
That being said, if health care organizations are determined to make the leap towards a satisfying, retail-like consumer experience for patients, they may want to start by simplifying the most prevalent source of friction and confusion — the financial experience — while also addressing the key factors of staying viable under new social and public health mandates.
To successfully ride the consumerism wave and balance the high levels of patient satisfaction that support value-based reimbursement with new needs for social distancing, healthcare organizations must view their financial processes through their patients’ eyes. Then, they must reduce points of friction — defined as any negative aspect affecting the consumer experience.
Our mobile phones are a part of our lives. Apple realized that its customers preferred to pay for transactions with their phones because, of course, using a credit card created friction. Therefore, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, PayPal and other financial mobile apps have been successful in reducing the friction of financial transactions. But they also represent a way to keep people safe during transactions and interactions. By harnessing contactless payments through mobile pay, both patient and provider can stay safe without interruption during the billing cycle.
Zotec Partners has developed a revolutionary, market-disruptive all-in-one tool designed to empower patients and provide them with the transparency necessary to make informed financial decisions without the customary financial friction of the healthcare industry. It lets patients schedule and register for appointments ahead of time, confirm or change insurance and demographic information, see estimated service costs, receive text and email updates, seamlessly check in and check out, and make payments at the time of service, all with their mobile phones.
By removing common sources of friction, this kind of technology helps create harmonious financial relationships reflective of the patient-centered clinical care delivered by providers. That’s increasingly important, given the rise in reimbursement models that tie hospital and health system reimbursement to overall patient satisfaction.
Implement patient-focused financial strategies
Reducing friction, emphasizing safety, and strengthening the patient-provider business relationship requires engaging in patient-focused financial conversations from pre-registration through post-discharge. By helping patients understand what they owe — and why — hospitals and health systems can keep them from being blindsided and upset by unexpected bills. Here are a few strategies to do that:
● Enable mobile scheduling. Begin the positive financial experience with the convenience of mobile scheduling, which can reduce appointment delays as well as satisfy patients and keep people safe.
● Personalize communication methods. Even while many of us are still apart, communication is a chance to be together. Meet the diverse needs of patients and enhance engagement by offering flexible financial communication strategies. In other words: let patients choose the communication method that works best for them. A millennial may ask to receive a text with a link to set up a payment plan, for instance, while a baby boomer might prefer to write a check after receiving a printed statement. Offering a variety of communication methods raises the odds that patients will feel comfortable and pay their bills.
● Deliver upfront cost estimates. Focusing on the consumer means understanding that financial security, particularly as it comes to healthcare costs, is an emotional and huge priority. Leverage technology to calculate remaining deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, and then use this information to provide financial transparency to patients prior to service. Doing so gives patients the chance to prepare for what they owe — both practically and emotionally — before ever stepping foot in the facility. It allows them to make care decisions confidently and increases the likelihood they will be willing and able to provide payment.
● Tailor payment options. Knowing how much a procedure will cost doesn’t always mean a patient can afford it. Using technology to forecast patients’ ability and propensity to pay their out-of-pocket expenses can help healthcare organizations ensure they connect each patient with the appropriate payment options or financial assistance in advance of services.
● Offer payment convenience. Allow patients to select the payment method that provides the greatest convenience. Zotec Partners, for instance, alerts patients to their balances through text messages, and lets patients submit payments via text message, online, through an interactive voice response system or by calling a customer service representative.
Simplify, engage…and grow
Zotec Partners understands the importance of a healthcare revenue cycle focused squarely on the consumer, particularly in the rapidly changing world of COVID-19. Engaging patients throughout the financial process with mobile technology can help hospitals and health systems sustain their own fiscal well-being while providing a satisfying, retail-like experience to patients.
As care increasingly expands out into the community — into retail clinics, schools, mobile units and more — these efforts have the potential to better and even save patient lives. To do so, healthcare organizations will need a transparent, patient-centered approach that mirrors the conveniences found in other industries. Anywhere healthcare is delivered, the right financial management tools can help simplify the patient experience and strengthen the unique patient-provider business relationship.