Outsourcing Self Pay—The Patient Experience Doesn’t End at the Exit Door

There is a lot at stake when anyone utters the words “patient-friendly experience.” Patients today—with many choices in care and more of their own money at stake—demand it. Healthcare organizations seek continually to improve it. Payers even play a role, rewarding providers for keeping patients satisfied.

But did you know that the financial experience experience can make or break the overall patient experience? A TransUnion Healthcare survey from 2014 found that nearly 80% of patients who gave high ratings for quality of care over the span of year also said their billing and payment experiences were usually positive. Great news, right? Yes, but 85% of patients who gave poor ratings for quality of care also assigned poor ratings for their billing and payment experiences.

The idea that healthcare organizations can deliver exceptional clinical care and consider their job done when the patient walks out the exit door is flawed, because the patient experience is influenced irreversibly by the billing experience and vice versa.

While the continuum of care starts as a clinical encounter, it ends as a financial encounter.

Many revenue cycle leaders recognize this, yet they find that creating a patient-friendly financial experience while upholding their ultimate goal of maximizing cash is just plain hard. Truth is, you can optimize your revenue cycle and simultaneously enhance the patient's experience by outsourcing.

The role of outsourcing in patient satisfaction

Increased competition among healthcare organizations makes it likely that if a patient has a bad experience, whether clinically or financially, they very well may walk right down the street (sometimes literally) and seek care from another facility. In these instances, healthcare organizations lose more than just a patient. Patient satisfaction scores drop, patient retention metrics suffer, and future revenue is lost.

Recurring revenue that results from a patient returning to your facility for subsequent care is vital to your overall financial health, and that’s why taking care of the entirety of the patient experience is paramount.

Homing in on the patient’s financial experience will lead you to assess the holes and hurdles in your current revenue cycle and their impact on how quickly and easily the patient’s balance is handled in a manner that maximizes cash collection and preserves the patient relationship. Outsourcing the self pay A/R follow-up component of your revenue cycle operation can help your organization best use the talents of your current staff, improve cash performance, and create a positive overall experience.

Here are three reasons why outsourcing leads to a positive patient experience:

Outsourcing gives you access to technology you need, but won’t buy

Integrating high performing technology into your self pay A/R follow up strategy makes cash collection easier and faster. Through technology, accounts are scrubbed, stratified, prioritized, queued, and contacted. Patients can call or visit online to make payments without directly contacting a representative, all because of technology. Even patient statement design, language services, and payment plan options are technology-based.

But that technology comes with a hefty, often prohibitive, price tag. When a healthcare CEO or finance team must choose between a seven-figure diagnostic scanner or a seven-figure self pay management system with dialer technology, we all know that the outcome will be, because clinical care is naturally the top priority.

Choosing a revenue cycle partner that has already made high-cost, top-line investments in technology allows you to reach the right patient at the right time with the right frequency.

With a partner, your self pay strategy widens dramatically to include a sophisticated, patient-centric platform that integrates with your host system and improves cash results by simplifying your communication with your patients about their balances.

But technology—even self pay technology—is only as good as the people behind it.

Outsourcing expands your manpower

Simply putting “someone on the phones” to answer or make patient calls does not generate the optimized outcome. The best patient representatives are screened carefully and trained extensively. After all, they are often the last point of contact in the patient’s continuum of care, responsible for leaving that final impression.

Regardless of whether your self pay team is understaffed or staffed appropriately, the real question is do you have the right team members? Stellar self pay specialists are excellent listeners and problem solvers. They are experts at educating the patient on the complexity of the financial outcomes that are a result of his or her clinical experience. They are great at setting the patient at ease, and their communication style is simultaneously firm and respectful. And, admittedly, they are hard to find and keep.

When you outsource patient self pay, the expense and energy spent hiring, training, and retaining staff is no longer your issue.

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Outsourcing helps your patients understand what they owe and why

Anyone can repeat a statement balance or rehearse payment options. We refer to that as “doing collections.” But, a highly educated specialist actually “speaks healthcare” and translates it for patients who don’t.

Put yourself in your patient’s shoes. Would your patient statement, explanation of benefits or online portal leave you with questions or give you answers? According to the 2016 TransUnion Healthcare Report, 54% of patients are confused by their bill and 62% are surprised by out-of-pocket costs. Educating patients is actually the primary role of your self pay team members and that requires healthcare expertise.

Education is key in these situations. It’s all about educating patients on their financial obligations and providing a reason for the charges.

Finding a partner who prioritizes and practices patient education will inevitably lead to more patients understanding their financial responsibility. Patients who understand are more likely and willing to pay. And, it goes without saying, they will also be happiest overall with their entire experience.

Bottom Line

Staying focused on providing care for patients first and foremost is the right move for healthcare organizations. Outsourcing the financial encounter is a natural step that, when done well, can unify patient care and the financial interaction into one positive patient experience, building loyalty in an increasingly fractured market. 

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About Brad Baldwin, Chief Operating Officer

Brad Baldwin, Chief Operating Officer

Brad has profit and loss responsibility for full and extended business office services and coding services. He has assembled a strong team that consistently over-performs in areas of project pricing, operational execution, client management, performance analytics and technology.

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