The Patient Experience and Your Bottom Line
Jan 02, 2020 07:12PM
● By MED Magazine
More and more healthcare providers are realizing that today’s patients expect more than just good
medical care - they expect a positive overall experience. In fact, research shows that experience is closely linked to a practice’s bottom line. MED Digital Partner PatientX specializes in helping providers create an experience through marketing tactics that will not only serve patients - but will also help the bottom line.
PatientX CEO Michael Winkleman explained in an exclusive interview with MED.
MED: Why is the ‘patient experience’ such an important part of healthcare today?
MW: On patient satisfaction surveys we see several areas that need help. Besides time and communication with their provider, one of the top areas where we see negativity is the complexity of the billing process. When patients do not understand what to expect, where their bill will come from, who they are paying and how much they’ll owe, it impacts their whole interaction with that process.
MED: What is the best way to avoid these kinds of problems?
MW: It is important to consider the entire process, from the time the patient hands over their insurance card at the front desk, to the time they pay the final bill. Providers need to think in terms of creating an experience that is patient focused. This is where marketing and operations need to partner to create educational opportunities and resources for both staff and patients.
A good place to start is developing a thorough process and ensuring proper training for the front desk staff. For instance, if they do not properly enter the information from the patient’s payor or Medicare card, it can lead to denials and other pain points for the staff and the patients. This can lead to a less satisfying experience for the patient and a loss of revenue for the provider. In addition to training of the staff, creating resources that clearly outline the required fields needed to accurately submit claims should be visible and in front of staff at all times.
Another example of how to improve the patient experience surrounding the billing process is to have the front desk staff asking patients how they want to be communicated with. A lot of facilities fail to do this. If they are sending emails, and the patient prefers phone calls, this can affect the patient’s experience as well.
MED: Can you give an example of a billing practice that some patients might find confusing?
MW: Patients expect their bill to come from the provider themselves or the place where they had the procedure done. Often, they don’t realize that they may have three different bills associated with one procedure - one from the doctor, one from the lab, maybe one from the anesthesiology or radiology group. They get a second or third bill they aren’t expecting, and they think, ‘What is this?’
It’s important to provide your financial process and the responsibilities of the patient in a fashion that is easy for the patient to understand. This can be provided in a variety of formats including print and digital and should be reviewed both prior to and following a procedure.
MED: Do you think this is a bigger problem now than it was in the past?
MW: Yes. People are more aware than ever of scams and fraudulent practices. A lot of times, this third-party billing looks like a scam to them so they ignore it. If you don’t tell your patients and they don’t know, it is hard for the facilities themselves to track how many times they have asked the patient for payment. What can happen is they get sent straight to collections. Patients can be very frustrated by this process, which can have a negative impact on their patient satisfaction and your bottom line.
MED: Can you walk us through the steps of a positive patient financial experience?
MW: At the time of pre-op or patient authorization, they should be doing patient eligibility and finding out exactly what that patient is going to have to pay and educating them on the payment process both prior to and following the procedure. Transparency is going to be a lot better than having the patient walk out having no idea what their cost is even going to be.
This should be followed up post-appointment or post-procedure. At that point, the anxiety around the procedure is over and people may be more able to hear and absorb the information. A lot of providers are not doing this.
The last tip is to follow through. It’s vital to educate the staff about how to do this. The person taking the phone calls needs to be very familiar with the billing process. Having the right educational resources available and a process on how your staff will deliver the information is critical during this part of the patient experience.