How St. Luke’s Is Transforming the Patient Experience

Michael Rawdan, Senior Director of Revenue Cycle and Patient Experience at St. Luke’s Health System, talked at the HIMSS Revenue Cycle Summit about the many steps St. Luke’s is taking to transform the patient financial experience.

He started by explaining that St. Luke’s is a large player (around $3bn NPR) in a small market (south/central Idaho) that has been nationally recognized, by Truven and others, for the quality of its clinical excellence and outcomes.

Michael described the patient financial experience as any interaction of a financial nature related to the care of a patient. And he described how St. Luke’s measures their performance in delivering this experience, by combining data and survey input from mailed questionnaires, call center Q&A, feedback requests in the VisitPay application (branded St. Luke’s BillPay), and on the St. Luke’s billing landing page.

Starting to Measure Patient Satisfaction

The St. Luke’s journey began in 2015 when only 28% of patients awarded “top box” in satisfaction with their financial experience. To laughter from the room, Michael commented that their CFO asked, “Are you sure you wanted to measure that?” when he saw the results.

But this realization kicked off an important set of parallel efforts across St. Luke’s to raise satisfaction with the experience. Michael explained that they followed a combination of internal applications and improvements, and approaches undertaken with partners like VisitPay. He stressed that there’s no silver bullet and outlined the range of steps taken by St. Luke’s in the last few years.

St. Luke’s focused on the call center to begin with. After all, the call center was on the front end of most patient contact. Michael’s team worked hard on staffing improvements to reduce call abandonment rates and improve call quality.

An Analytical Foundation to Patient Engagement

But they also worked with VisitPay to build an analytical approach to help engage with patients in the call center. He commented that St. Luke’s now treats patients differently based on the results of this analysis. By making sure the agent has the right information and the right script they are able to tailor the patient experience in the right way based on St. Luke’s understanding of the financial needs of the individual consumer. This raises satisfaction and improves efficiency, the twin goals that were discussed in many sessions through the day.

Michael also shared the progress St. Luke’s has made around “charity quickness,” describing how his team dramatically rethought the charity eligibility process to reduce approval times. He explained that St. Luke’s has a material number of charity-eligible patients that previously may have waited months for eligibility confirmation. By completely rethinking the approach, they removed a barrier to care for those who need it and have limited options.

Implementing VisitPay for Patient Payments

Discussing St. Luke’s implementation of VisitPay, he described it as “a very strong win.” He noted that three-quarters of the patients that pay bills at St. Luke’s are female and discussed how “mom” is frequently the financial head of household in terms of managing and coordinating healthcare payments for everyone in the family, something that VisitPay makes very straightforward. But he stressed that their payment platform needs to manage multiple patient types at multiple stages of life.

He also discussed how the VisitPay application allows St. Luke’s to offer longer-term financing. Today St. Luke’s offers up to three years, with interest to cover their cost of capital. But longer terms are on the table in response to patient need. And this is leading St. Luke’s to investigate ways of keeping patient obligation both on their own balance sheet and off it. But he stressed this needs to be a seamless experience for the patient. In Michael’s view, patients don’t want the experience of paying a third party. They want a provider-based experience because that is who delivers their care, and that is the institution with which they have an ongoing relationship.

Positive Results and Three Key Learnings

In conclusion, Michael shared some results. He was clear in stating that a positive financial experience sets the foundation for better clinical care. The revenue cycle function should be doing everything it can to reduce patient stress and concern.

St. Luke’s has reported a 38% improvement in self-pay collections by month over the last 16 months. And over the same period has seen a 21% reduction in cost per dollar collected across the revenue cycle. And patient satisfaction? They are now scoring 51% top box satisfaction and they’re gunning for 70-75%.

Michael ended with three key learnings from his experience:

  • Financial experience matters. Patients are starting to vote with their wallets. Start by understanding your patients and ask them what matters.
  • A combination of efforts is required to make the revenue cycle more consumer-centric. There is no silver bullet.
  • Health systems need to decide what they’re going to be good at and where they should bring in outside experts.

Here at VisitPay we’re proud to be part of the journey and the extended St. Luke’s team.

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