Overcoming the Impact of Increased Patient Responsibility

February 3, 2022

On February 1, 2022, Zotec Partners hosted a Zotec Shares Webinar with a special guest panel titled Overcoming the Impact of Increased Patient Responsibility.

The four members of the expert-led panel included:

  • Troy Purcell, Practice Administrator at Lake Medical Imaging
  • Amy Ross, Senior VP of Relationship Management at Zotec Partners.
  • Dan Simile, EVP of Client Relationships at Zotec Partners
  • Dave Walker, Director of Revenue and Credentialing at Radiology Associates of North Texas (RANT)

In this Zotec Shares webinar, our panel graciously shared insights into effective methods to manage rising patient responsibility. Read below for practical advice and proven best practices shared during our discussion.

What industry trends are providers seeing regarding high-deductible plans?

DAN: Our research has indicated that in 2020, 53% of US workers were covered by high deductible plans. That’s about a 34% increase since 2015. There is a trend of more financial pressure, more out-of-pocket costs, and more decision-making pressure on patients. This pressure ultimately reduces the likelihood of the patient being able to pay their bill. We are also seeing a focus on the patient financial experience, getting the patient involved in the process, and recognizing the needs of the patient. Another trend is looking into new ways and alternatives to collect as much as possible from insurance providers.

Are radiologist practices concerned about high deductible plans, and if so, what strategies is your practice taking to tackle the issue?

TROY: We have our hospital-based business where we don’t have a tremendous amount of control, and we are seeing that the self-pay volume has doubled over the last few years. Our theory is the high deductible patients do not go to outpatient imaging because they don’t have the funds to pay for it. This increase in the hospitals is more difficult to control than in our offices. In the hospitals, we utilize Zotec optimize revenue after-the-fact, and in the office, we use the tools to be able to collect payment upfront. The solution accurately capture co-pays and deductibles, and we call the patients and let them know what to expect before coming in,so that the price isn’t a surprise.

Are you keeping a close eye the trends happening around patient responsibility? If so, what are you seeing?

DAVE: We are keeping an eye on it. The high deductible plans are not going away, and the number of employers using them is increasing on a regular basis. We partner with groups around the state of Texas, and as new groups have joined us, what we’ve seen is that more rural groups have more challenges than groups in urban areas. We have seen up to a 3-4% increase in deductibles for those rural groups, so it’s a pressure on physicians. We have to think through how we can meet the patients where they’re at, how we can create a process to keep patients healthy, and how we can ensure that physicians get compensated for their work. Luckily, Zotec’s metrics and analytics let us track monthly where deductibles are at and respond to changes in the market.

Zotec just recently revised our process around payment plans. What can you share so far about the impact of this enhancement?

AMY: It is important for us, as we work with provider groups, to be able to pivot quickly and determine the needs of the patients. One element of that was to address payment plans, where we had minimum balance thresholds. We have been able to work with groups and open that up so that we can meet the patient where they’re at financially. We’re still looking at data and making additional adjustments where needed, but we’re really trying to work with patients in a way that makes sense for them.

How are the current trends in high-deductible plans impacting or changing business planning and forecasting?

TROY: We never used to collect fees upfront, but the changing paradigm has had us collecting upfront for the past 5 years. The concept of collecting that money in radiology practice is relatively new. We have seen copays and deductibles increase 4x since we started doing this. If we can get paid upfront, it is much better for the practice, and it has helped us tremendously with collections. We use reports from Zotec that show us different carriers and different possible deductible percentages that we could’ve collected, then we share that with our staff and track it monthly. We compare reports between our imaging centers and have turned it into a friendly competition.

Can you share with us your strategy for greater collections?

DAVE: We sat down with Zotec a couple years ago to figure out what strategies to put in place that would help us with patient liability. Our revenue cycle was tight, and we were good at getting insurance claims paid, but we had a lot of self-pay left. This was our biggest area where we were challenged in thinking about how to collect money. We needed to figure out how to get extra cash for the year, and it seemed like the best place to start. The first thing brought up was about changing fee schedule for self-pay patients and increasing the payments. We also considered where patients slow down their responses to our current outreach and decided to add in a payment-plan reminder text. Subsequently, we saw more engagement and our payment plans increased 6x. We also reviewed our parameters and had our phone reps discuss what seemed reasonable. This was great because the people closest to the patients had more power to weigh in and provide insight. All these strategies together have led to our patient payments increasing.

What are some specific ways providers can enhance the experience while increasing payment recovery?

DAN: Today’s patients will evaluate their clinical experience based on their financial experience. We use an omni-channel method to think of how to engage the patient and have them interact in ways that are seamless, easy to use, timely, and accessible. These things will enable the patient to have a better experience and therefore think better of their financial and clinical experiences. We can do phone calls, texts, emails, interactive voice response, payment plans, paper statements, etc. to make the patient comfortable and understand that it’s easy to work with. All of this helps us invoke a strategy that optimizes patient response.

How are healthcare providers implementing patient feedback and listening to their needs and concerns?

AMY: Many providers are looking for opportunities to get information that allows for outreach to patients in advance or in real-time when they visit a physical office. Google Reviews is another great way to engage with patients who are sharing their feelings on the experience. We must understand how to interact and engage with patients on those platforms as they become more popular. It comes down to what to do with feedback once you have it and focusing on the content of the message and not just the delivery.

If there’s one thing you want people to remember from our conversations here today, what would it be?

TROY: We have to learn to be flexible and meet the patient at the need-level they have.

DAVE: If there’s one strategy that we talked about today that you haven’t investigated, just pick one, and start that process. Watch the results come in and you will have momentum to go start on some other subsequent strategies.

AMY: Flexibility, understanding patients, and listening will allow you to pivot and meet patientswhere they’re at.

DAN: Remember the patient is a consumer and they need to be treated in a way that is easy and flexible for them.

To hear more in-depth insight from the panel and watch a recording of the live webinar, click the green box below.

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