Patient Loyalty Q&A: How Health Industry Finance Leaders Build Relationships That Last 

When it comes to brand loyalty, the healthcare industry faces the same expectations other industries do: people want the same simple, convenient experience they receive in other areas of their lives. Providing that kind of seamless, consumer-centric experience can make a big impact on how patients view the health system overall and work toward building patient loyalty. 

In our podcast series, we’ve been talking with industry leaders from TransUnion Healthcare, Texas Health Resources, Intermountain Healthcare,  St. Luke’s Health System, and Carilion Clinic. This time we asked, “What role do you think the financial experience specifically plays in the creation of that overall loyal patient-provider relationship?”

Here are their collective answers on how they’re working to increase patient loyalty at their health systems:

Tammie Jackson, HFMA National Chair and VP of GTM Strategy and Sales at TransUnion Healthcare: 

Our clients are very clear on the fact that patient financial experience plays heavily into brand loyalty. That journey starts well before medical care has been provided. But the journey doesn’t end there. It extends to the billing on the back end. 

We’ve all heard that anecdote that everything could go beautifully with somebody in their clinical care. But if that financial experience goes awry, the entire visit is categorized as bad. So yes, a more stress-free patient financial experience can be so meaningful, and absolutely impacts loyalty to a hospital or health system. 

Practices, hospitals, and health systems should consider self-service capabilities, implementing flexible payment options, combined billing, and digital applications for easily accessible statements. We’ve been talking about that for so many years. But it seems to be the elusive end goal. 

A satisfied loyal patient is more likely to be involved in their medical care, and they’re more likely to pay for it. Our data shows that the right patient financial engagement platform can improve patient payment yield by 30 to 70 percent, and improve operational efficiency by up to 70 percent. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t also add that loyalty is equally important, if not more important when larger portions of a system’s revenue begin to shift to value-based care compensation. So it’s incredibly important that systems are putting in place those pieces to the puzzle that need to be there in order to garner the loyalty that will help garner their market share.

David Salsberry, Chief Revenue Officer, Texas Health Resources: 

Across all providers, there are too many examples where the financial experience of care really kind of kills the clinical experience of care. 

We give great care. And we often wait to see how the patient reacts when they get their bill. Oftentimes, it’s not very good. We are working hard to help our patients understand we care as much about their financial experience as we do about their clinical experience. 

We try to focus on three key principles: clarity in all we do, consistency with all we do, and providing what we do in a very compassionate way. The compassion piece is actually the hardest of the three. We want our revenue cycle teams to meet people where they’re at because people pay their bills differently. And people view their medical expenses differently. 

We want to try to find solutions that work for consumers. Yet at the same time, you can’t give away the shop either, right? Patient collections are a significant part of our economic funding in order to support our not-for-profit mission. It’s a real delicate balance in terms of how you think through that consumer experience and how you work with that consumer.

Todd Craghead, VP of Revenue Cycle, Intermountain Healthcare: 

We want to make sure there is brand loyalty as folks search about trying to identify where to receive the best care. We want to make sure they’ll use the technology or the tools that are available to look around and say, “You know, they have the types of things that I need, including the care, the providers, the connected network.” As well as vehicles that allow them to satisfy their obligation in a way that reduces friction and makes it somewhat seamless. Those things are all connected in a way that helps to make that experience whole for them. 

So brand loyalty is really important. We’re able to look around right now and see that folks are shopping around, and they’re using online resources to do that. We have to be a part of that.

Michael Rawdan, Sr. Director of Patient Financial Experience, St. Luke’s Health System: 

Coming from other non-healthcare organizations such as Capital One or Hewlett Packard, one of the key metrics we always would look at is a net promoter score; some kind of evaluation of your product or service. And that’s one of the key things that will drive us forward in terms of our priorities. 

When I joined St. Luke’s a little more than eight years ago, one of my first questions was, “How are our customers or patients scoring us?” “What do they think about us, particularly on the financial side?” And the answer was, “We don’t measure it. It’s not something that we do.” 

We decided a little more than six years ago to begin to start this journey we call the patient financial experience. And we believe that this experience is a competitive advantage. First, it helps us in terms of driving our business. Second, it helps the patients where a lot of that pain is experienced; not clinical pain, but financial pain. 

A lot of these services that patients need to have done are not planned for, so there are a lot of life events that can happen. And we need to be flexible around what the needs of the patient are. We believe that this full experience is important to the overall long-term relationship with that patient. 

Head to the podcast library to hear the full interviews. 

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