How to Meet Patients on Their Terms: Solo Strivers and Overextended Achievers

In the age of the patient as payer, health systems must explore new ways to increase yields for the services they provide. To understand consumer sentiment and propose a framework for improving the patient financial experience, VisitPay launched a national segmentation study in August 2018. With greater clarity around patient financial needs and behaviors, health systems can improve the financial experience at all touchpoints across the health system – at appointments, in the ER, via phone, online and inside the billing statement.

The VisitPay Report describes this ground-breaking research and delineates five national consumer segments based on demographics, communication preferences and financial behaviors. This post puts a spotlight on two of these segments: the Solo Striver and the Overextended Achiever.

The Solo Striver

Mary works hard to support her two daughters, but on a modest income, has a tough time making ends meet. She is lucky that her medical expenses are relegated to a virus here and minor injury there; but with a high deductible health plan, the expenses are adding up. She doesn’t have enough money set aside in savings to cover costs in full, but wants to do the right thing and pay for the healthcare services her family has received.

The study identified lots of patients like Mary, single moms under the age of 39 who are striving to make things work. Through cluster analysis and machine learning, she fell into a group called Solo Strivers, lower-income individuals with high out of pocket balances. Though Mary has a High Deductible Health Plan, others in this segment are uninsured or on Medicaid, often avoiding medical care because of cost. By reaching out to Mary before illness strikes, health systems can educate her on the benefits of preventative care and suggest payment options. Without resorting to costly ER visits.

Mary has expressed interest in payment plans, but due to the complexities of healthcare, doesn’t know how to get started. In fact, despite her high use of social media, she prefers that someone from the health system call or speak to her in person about financial matters. If she can find out about online payment earlier in her healthcare journey, it’s quite possible she would set up an installment plan that fits her budget and keeps her family healthy.

Wouldn’t you, as a health system, like to connect with patients like Mary who want to do the right thing but aren’t sure how? Offer a plan to pay for healthcare services that meet her family’s budgetary needs? Meet with Mary earlier in her healthcare journey, before the debt is sent to collections?

A financial conversation is the right thing to do for two reasons:

1. Mary wants to pay at least some of her medical expenses but only knows about one option – paying in full – which isn’t a reality for her. A longer-term plan with low monthly payments and a low-interest rate would better meet her budgetary needs.

2. Mary’s circumstances might change. A job loss, marriage or change in her family’s health status might affect her insurance coverage or type. Educational conversations tailored to her communication preferences help ensure that she doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of write-offs.

While conversations like these may be perceived as intrusive, they are what the doctor orders for patient satisfaction, loyalty and trust.

The Overextended Achiever

Bill has been healthy most of his life, with a work hard, play hard mentality. When he turned fifty, a series of injuries set in to encumber his lifestyle. Though Bill makes a great living, owns a beautiful home and drives a nice sports car, the medical bills keep adding up. With a high deductible plan for his family, medical bills have become a second mortgage. The old way of paying off medical bills in full isn’t working anymore.

Bill represents a segment of consumers knows as Overextended Achievers, higher income individuals aged 40-65. This segment earns a lot of money but also spends a lot. On top of expensive premiums for his family’s high deductible health plan, out of pocket balances are climbing, too. Bill wants to pay medical expenses over time without incurring high-interest rates. Especially with credit card balances he’d like to pay down.

This segment is attractive to health systems due to higher incomes and Propensity to Pay (PTP) scores. A candidate for profitable service lines like spine surgery and joint replacement, health systems want to keep patients like Bill satisfied and loyal. Offering a short-term payment plan with a reasonable interest rate helps keep him manage expenses more efficiently with convenient online access. Health systems stand to lose out if they assume patients like Bill want to pay medical bills in full.

Given Bill’s busy work schedule, he isn’t interested in time-consuming personal conversations. He wants financial information to be succinctly summarized in an email, with monthly text reminders to pay his bill online. Health systems save time and money by using turnkey electronic resources to communicate with him. And Bill is happy, too.

Learn More about Your Patients Today

These are just two of the five segments described in The VisitPay Report, each with unique demographics, financial behaviors and communication preferences. With these insights, health systems can better understand how consumers seek and pay for medical care, highlighting important ways to personalize and improve the financial experience.

When layered on top of financial scores and segmentation, VisitPay helps health systems prioritize resources and reach patients with meaningful messages using their preferred channels of communication – across the financial journey.

The patient’s financial journey starts and ends with VisitPay. Download The VisitPay Report to learn more about how you can develop sound financial engagement strategies that improve patient satisfaction and build trust.

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