As the patient clinical and financial experiences become increasingly intertwined, health systems must find ways to take the frustration out of the billing process. Today, patients expect a billing experience similar to what they know from other consumer-facing industries. That’s why Intermountain Healthcare adopted an online financial engagement platform to streamline the patient billing experience.
It was important to us that we evolve our processes and our technology in order to benefit patients, as well as improve our revenue cycle management processes, especially since out-of-pocket healthcare costs continue to rise, even among those who have employer health coverage. In fact, around 152 million Americans have employer-sponsored health insurance, but last year employees paid close to $5,600 out-of-pocket on average for family coverage and nearly $1,600 for individual coverage.
To help navigate the changing landscape of patient financial responsibility, we deployed VisitPay in 2017, offering patients a comprehensive and streamlined approach to their billing. We are now approaching 200,000 registered users and the solution continues to help Intermountain Healthcare drive results and elevate the patient experience.
The Changing Landscape of Patient Financial Responsibility
Our health system spans three states — Utah, Idaho, and Nevada — and includes 24 hospitals, 210 clinics, and 41,700 employees. We serve thousands of patients every year, and we wanted to give them a positive billing experience to go alongside their positive care experience.
From 2008 to 2013, we observed an increase in self-pay balances and receivables, with more self-pay patients and greater cost-sharing among insured patients. At the same time that the patient’s financial responsibility was increasing, our health system was undergoing its own transformation and transitioning to a new EHR system. We were also working with a vendor to create propensity-to-pay scores to support our patient financial services team. But the two efforts were siloed. We needed a solution that worked hand-in-hand with our EHR and that offered a broad set of patient payment capabilities, including digital billing, self-service payment tools for patients, and analytics to allow us to tailor the payment process and get deeper visibility into our revenue cycle.
Partnering with VisitPay helped us to achieve these objectives. VisitPay has helped us to address several pain points in our billing process, enhance the patient financial experience, increase operational efficiencies, and capture more patient revenue.
Patient Billing Goes Digital
We now have approaching 200,000 registered users of Intermountain Bill Pay, the patient-facing name we give to the VisitPay platform. This is as a result of reorienting our processes around consumers and helping them throughout their journey with the system, both clinically and financially. To support the deployment and growth of VisitPay use at Intermountain, we have taken a number of key steps to make it easy for our patients to engage in the financial process:
- Redesigned website: We simplified and redesigned our Bill Pay website to further highlight and promote online bill payment.
- Made one-time payments easier: We launched an updated one-time payment feature within VisitPay that makes quick payments easier and acts as a streamlined entry point into the full registered user bill payment experience.
- Engaged Customer Service Representatives (CSRs): We adapted our call scripting to encourage more online bill payments for patients seeking longer duration payment plans. This allows us to continue to focus our CSR team on patients with more complex billing situations while seeing more of our population sign up for self-service.
- Tested different messages in paper statements: We tested different messages in our billing statements that promoted either a paperless option or flexible payment options, including online payments or payments via phone.
- Improved financial conversations at the front desk: Our front desk staff began giving patients a card that promoted online Bill Pay and provided simple instructions for how they could set up an account.
- Used Google for paid search: In the spring of 2018, a third party began to market itself as an “Intermountain” payment portal and charge a usage fee, which led to ongoing patient complaints. To protect our reputation and ensure patients weren’t charged unnecessarily, we launched a paid search campaign to redirect them to our Bill Pay website.
Driving Results—and a Better Patient Experience
Thanks to these efforts, we’ve experienced an increase in online Bill Pay adoption among patients. New user registration spiked after the website redesign, almost doubling our weekly registration rate following the change. About 20% of our new registered users now come from converting patients who make a one-time payment to a full registered user of Intermountain Bill Pay. Changes to our CSR conversations led to thousands of new users each month. Statement messages also drove an increase in adoption, with the flexible payment messages performing strongly. Our front desk handouts also helped us drive adoption in a low-cost way, while our paid search campaigns delivered a high clickthrough rate straight to Intermountain Bill Pay.
While the numbers are compelling, what’s even more important is that we’ve increased patient satisfaction.
Healthcare is constantly changing, but it has to become even more consumer-focused. VisitPay has helped to accelerate this transformation within our organization and has taken some of the administrative burden away from our billing department. And ultimately, it’s allowing us to deliver a better patient financial experience.