The COVID Economy and Beyond: Industry Trends to Expect in 2021
The healthcare industry and the patient financial experience are in the midst of a massive transformation. The wheels of change had already been turning, but the global pandemic has put these much-needed evolutions to the forefront, prioritizing and accelerating this new way of thinking about patient billing.
As we look to 2021, we discussed the state of the industry with Brian Wiley (Sr. Director of Client Success), John Townsend (Director of Client Success), Andrew Hyman (Director of Client Success), and Casey Hamar (Sr. Manager of Client Success). They shared their insights, expertise, and opinions into how COVID-19 has impacted the industry, and what the patient financial experience will look like moving forward.
Q: How has COVID impacted the patient financial experience?
John: “COVID created even more uncertainty for patients than before. Prior to the pandemic, patients were already struggling to pay large balances that were difficult, if not impossible, to anticipate. Today, that pressure and stress is only higher with millions of Americans out of work and a virus that delivers a wide variety of impacts in terms of symptoms, required treatment, and recovery timelines. At the same time, providers are struggling to manage this increase in demand within all areas (clinical and administrative), along with sharp cuts to revenue.”
Andrew: “As patients dealt with widespread financial hardship from the COVID economy (including loss of income and loss of commercial insurance), their ability to pay was severely affected. Though VisitPay has always been key to driving patient satisfaction and health system financial strength, I noticed our platform and partnership value take on much greater importance. Our clients recognized that we were a key element in their success. We were able to help them prepare for and counteract the financial fallout of COVID. We were able to automate the patient and guarantor payment and contact interaction and reduce pressure on call centers and shortages of employees. Many of our clients adapted and persevered through incredible hardship in 2020.”
Brian: “Two things stand out to me. First is the acceleration of digital adoption—including treatment, billing, servicing, and payments. The other is an increase in the value that patients put on flexible financial solutions and finance plans.”
Q: Thinking strategically about 2021, what do you expect to stay the same, and what will change?
John: “Patients will continue to need transparency, clarity, and payment flexibility—which will not happen without a radical shift in our country’s healthcare model. Providers will continue to struggle with meeting demand in terms of patient billing satisfaction by using antiquated methods of patient interaction. They’ll also struggle with the need to provide more with less; balance sheets will likely not recover for some time. This dynamic will force health systems to innovate faster and adopt novel approaches for engaging with patients in ways that are impactful and tailored to the individual. Additionally, I would expect health systems to double-down in regard to their focus on patient billing yield as hospital revenue continues to feel pressure.”
Casey: “Many patients have transitioned to digital platforms for safety reasons during COVID. They ordered groceries digitally, bought new cars digitally, and met with their doctors digitally. Patients want safety and ease in their healthcare, and this will continue.”
Q: What are you most excited about for the next 3-5 years?
Brian: “I’m excited to see an increased focus on digital patient solutions designed to meet patient needs and expectations. Servicing differentiation and patient relationships are shaping health systems’ strategy and focus, which will result in patient-first innovation and increasingly better outcomes for both patient and hospital.”
Casey: “Patient financial experience systems will innovate to create a true partnership in which patients feel safe, heard, known, and supported. Health systems will be able to better anticipate the financial needs of patients with AI-based models and a predicted treatment plan.”
John: “I’m most excited about seeing the shift to digital health accelerate. Health systems were forced to adapt when COVID hit, and it challenged most to rethink what’s possible. That transition will only continue.”
Andrew: “I am excited to rekindle the sense of community as it becomes safe to let down our social distancing barriers. I am excited to continue to help our clients provide an incredible patient financial experience to their communities. I am energized by the opportunity to improve and simplify the patient financial experience.”
The challenges of 2020 haven’t ended with the turn of the calendar, but the healthcare industry is working toward solutions that will bring a brighter future. The COVID economy shined a light on some of the industry’s shortcomings, specifically in regard to the patient financial experience. Now, it’s time to adapt and build a better system together—one that is better fit to serve both the patient and the provider.
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