3 Takeaways from HFMA: Getting to Know Your Patient and Creating a Personalized Financial Experience

The 2019 HFMA Region 9 Annual Conference was held in downtown New Orleans November 10-12. A well-attended panel on understanding patients and personalizing the financial experience was kicked off by VisitPay, who introduced Michael Rawdan, Sr. Director of Revenue Cycle from St. Luke’s, and Carlos Valcarce, Administrative Director Central Business Office, who runs the revenue cycle at INTEGRIS.

Customer Experience Matters in Healthcare, Too

Michael had worked for large organizations outside of healthcare that had a strong focus on the customer. He saw that in healthcare, the focus was solely on the clinical experience while ignoring the financial experience, with no awareness of how the patients felt. He set out to understand patient satisfaction scores at St. Luke’s, even if they were poor (and they were). Patients were confused by their paper statements and wanted access to digital payment solutions in order to manage their household medical expenses, review EOBs, and make their own payment arrangements. Data proved Michael’s hypothesis that a better financial experience makes for a better overall care experience and improves patient payments and satisfaction. Today, the Net Promoter Score for St. Luke’s shows that patients rate their experience very high—about the same level as top consumer brands like Apple.

Carlos described a similar aspiration for INTEGRIS, as they hadn’t been proactive in understanding the financial needs and situations of their patients. They were able to uncover that patients didn’t understand their bills and couldn’t pay them easily. INTEGRIS has now implemented VisitPay, where patients get a seamless branded experience with consolidated EOBs, integration with other healthcare portals, and multiple language options. An in-app survey has captured many positive comments.

Reach Patients Where They Are: Segmentation and Testing

St. Luke’s was striving to get to a point where the financial experience became a one-to-one experience, just like it is in clinical care where the doctor treats each patient as an individual, not a group.

Michael described the segments from the VisitPay Report to demonstrate how different patients have different needs and approach the financial experience from their own unique perspectives. St. Luke’s worked with their statement vendor to design inserts with visuals representing who the patient is, encouraging the use of self-service tools (VisitPay) to manage their bills. He stressed the importance of testing: “It’s easy to say ‘patients are going to love that,’ but how do you really know?” Multiple insert types need to be tested and evaluated in terms of what language and imagery best resonate to accomplish the goal of driving consumer digital adoption.

Use Interest as a Behavior Modifier

The subject of health systems charging interest on patient balances can be a controversial one in healthcare. A request for a show of hands during the session revealed that none of the attendees were from health systems currently charging interest. Michael shared the way in which St Luke’s uses interest to modify patient behavior. Users are nudged toward shorter-term payment plans, while still being given the option for longer-term repayment at a much lower rate than they would get using credit cards. He noted that smarter patients exploit the availability of free financing, and that there is a way to meet in the middle. As one way of achieving that goal, St. Luke’s is implementing dynamic propensity-to-pay-based payment plan offers.

Focusing on the three lessons above produces powerful results. INTEGRIS is listening to their patients in a way that only those in patient access roles had been able to in the past. St. Luke’s is experiencing increased yield, higher patient satisfaction with the end-to-end experience, and a lowered cost to collect. Costs have decreased while effectiveness and efficiency have increased—putting both health systems and patients where they want to be.

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