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How Two Leading Health Systems Prepare for Price Transparency

Now that January is here, price transparency will affect health systems in significant ways. It’ll be “a very different world,” as Penny Cermak, who most recently served as executive vice president and chief financial officer at Baylor Scott & White, said while hosting the TransUnion Health CFO Symposium, an exclusive virtual event, featuring forward-thinking healthcare finance executives who are passionate about improving healthcare and raising the bar for success.

Price transparency starts from a position of giving people the ability to understand the out of pocket costs for their care and being able to search for services based on price. It has also forced health systems to think about how consumerism and the patient experience affect their industry. With the deadline here, health systems must prepare for these changes and consider the tools they’ll need to provide patients with access, ease, and flexibility. 

It’s a topic that two of the panelists, Jeff Taylor and Robert Dewar, are very familiar with. Throughout his 26 years at St. Luke’s Health System in Idaho, CFO Jeff Taylor has seen “substantial growth.” When he first joined in 1994, it was just over $100 million in revenue. Now, the largest employer in the state has about $3 billion in revenue. A long-time VisitPay partner, St. Luke’s has helped lead the transformation of the patient financial experience. 

Geisinger serves 1.5 million people in Pennsylvania. The 100-year-old organization is facing a “good deal of retooling,” explains Chief Revenue Officer Robert Dewar. This $5 billion health system is dedicated to finding the best ways to provide care and has recently partnered with VisitPay to improve the financial side of their patient journey.

As health systems work to implement price transparency in 2021, Taylor and Dewar shared how they’re preparing for this change.

JEFF TAYLOR, ST. LUKE’S HEALTH SYSTEM: Providing price transparency and estimations is certainly important, but I believe having the right tools is even more crucial. We need tools that help the patient actually understand their billing and enable them to finance the transaction—as well as to ensure that we get paid appropriately over an extended period of time. 

We use the Epic product, but we still weren’t getting the patient financial experience that we were looking for. So, we adopted the VisitPay platform and were actually one of the original developers along with them and their product. They’ve since been implemented in health systems across the country—including places like Intermountain Healthcare and several other large systems that have seen the value of giving patients the tools to self-service their transactions. On the backend, the tool allows us to understand our patients better. We have access to insights that tell us how we should interact with patients, whether or not they have the ability to pay and over what timeframe, and more.

The ability of a patient to self-service their account gives them control of their financial experience. They can say: “I want to pay this over a four-month period or a 12-month period or a two-year period.” It’s good for both patient and provider. We’ve enjoyed significant success with this product, including boosting our Net Promoter Score. We’re measuring it at over 50, which is consistent with Apple. We’ve been able to transform our billing experience with the VisitPay system. Most importantly—from my perspective—we’ve improved our overall yield. The patient portion of healthcare finance continues to rise when it used to be less than 10%.

The benefits of a user-friendly bill pay system yield substantial benefits. One of the keys to our financial success in terms of margins over the last several years was improving our revenue cycle performance. And VisitPay allowed us to do that.

ROBERT DEWAR, GEISINGER: I’ll add to what Jeff said about the value of the VisitPay tool. The platform also brings a ton of predictive analytics to the table, which Geisinger is not able to marshal on its own. It also helps to tailor our approaches to patients who are in different situations and actually nudges certain behavior towards shorter loans, higher payments, and things of that sort. You have all this data behind you, and VisitPay is able to very quickly help analyze what moves you ought to make to maximize the velocity of payments and the number of payments. It’s really the first huge change in the way we deal with patients. 

This is an example of a best-of-breed product. It’s amazing how easily and quickly you can integrate the platform with Epic or another revenue cycle system. We’re just at the beginning of this journey, but it’s already proven to be impressive. We look forward to the results and building patient loyalty

Typically, if you adopt a member-based approach, you’re talking about clinical care on one side of the equation. The financial experience is a whole other side. When those two start working together, that’s when you can really engender loyalty. It’s an extremely important point from a strategic perspective going forward. 

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