It’s a common challenge. Health systems recognize the need for an intelligent, digital payment platform to engage their patients, so they research the best solution and follow the steps to implement it. Then they go live, and find themselves presented with a new challenge: making its arrival known and getting people to sign up. If you can relate, here are three proven tactics for getting the word out at your health system—and getting people signed up.
#1 Engage employees and their families first
At VisitPay, we actively work with our clients to help them engage their patients, increase awareness, and encourage the creation of online accounts. One thing we’ve learned through this process is that employee adoption is essential to influencing adoption among the broader patient community.
We advise our clients to test the billing platform with their employees first. It is a time to gather feedback, stress test the system and actively engage employees in the new solution. Intermountain Healthcare opted for a phased rollout of the VisitPay platform, first deploying with their finance team and gradually testing it with their 37,000 employees.
“Stage what you do. Roll out to your health system employees. Monitor adoption and use, solicit feedback, and find out where the ‘gotchas’ are before implementing changes intended for patient use,” says Todd Craghead, Vice President of Revenue Cycle at Intermountain Healthcare.
Email, intranet sites, and employee newsletters are a great place to start your employee engagement. While it’s important to convey the benefits of the change to the patients, health system teams also need to learn the benefits for their organization, such as the reduction of operational costs, improved collections and expansion of call center bandwidth brought on by increased self-service. Our clients also have great success engaging employees in transparent environments such as town hall meetings, where employees are given opportunities to ask questions and provide feedback.
#2 Leverage existing non-digital channels
Because patients are accustomed to paper billing statements, these statements become key drivers of traffic to the portal after launch.
Include messaging on paper statements that drive patients to self-serve through online channels, and be sure to list the URL where the patient is most likely to see it: near the balance amount, within the “ways to pay” section, and on the payment coupon. Don’t print or promote the brand name of the financial solution you are using on the paper statement, e.g. VisitPay. It is not relevant to the patient who has a relationship with the healthcare provider, not a finance platform.
Re-designing the statement’s envelope can also be a cost-effective way to alert patients to the availability of a new, easier way to pay and manage their bills.
With non-digital tactics like inserts, you can measure the effectiveness of your messages by including a holdout group that serves as the baseline response against which you measure the incremental lift in portal registrations. In order to counter-message fatigue, be sure to refresh the copy when you notice the lift declining. And to maximize effectiveness, be sure to adjust the images and language used on the insert to best catch the interest of the person who will open the envelope.
#3 Create a cohesive digital experience
Change can be difficult. In fact, after the switch to a new patient billing experience, one of the most common patient complaints is the need to re-create a login and get comfortable with a new platform. This feedback often comes from patients who are in the middle of a healthcare episode.
To alleviate this frustration and improve awareness among the broader patient population, health systems must provide a seamless transition to the new portal from all existing access points, as well as communicate the benefits of the enhancements patients can expect to see.
The website homepage should feature a clear call to action about digital bill payment on the top navigation bar.
On the billing page, the call to action leading to the bill pay page should also be above the fold. As with the billing statement, lead with the online portal as “the” way to pay, making phone calls and snail mail payment methods clear, but muted.
Clinical portals like MyChart go through a huge effort to get digitally-inclined patients to adopt. Leverage that effort to transition users from the clinical portal to the payment portal using a Single Sign-On (SSO).
The sign-up process must be easy no matter if patients use a smart device or desktop.
It’s easy to forget that patients don’t live and breathe accounting and healthcare practices, so be sure to use common terms and language that patients will easily understand.
Starting on the website homepage, we recommend announcing the change in the billing experience pre-launch and in the first few months after launch. Banners, carousels with rotating content, or posts on the home page, can be designated to lead consumers to the billing page.
A short video on the billing page can also be a great tool for enticing patients to sign up by providing a simple preview of the experience. Here’s a good example from Henry Ford Health System.
Inova Health System uses the MyChart clinical portal to enable patients to view their records and make appointments. We worked with both the MyChart team and the marketing team to identify the spots and pages most likely to catch a patient’s eye. Reports from several health systems point to the fact that less than 20% of users use MyChart for billing. This leads us to recommend the use of more frequented pages like “Scheduling” to promote the new bill pay platform and its features.
Legacy payment systems may be phased out gradually. Communicating the timelines of when those changes are happening and what to expect from the new payment portal should be included on all aforementioned channels.
Looking for more adoption advice? VisitPay can help.
We have a number of experts in data analytics, communications, and implementation ready to help your health system get up and going with patient billing.
The initial tactics outlined above are proven to get health systems off to a strong start on consumer adoption. The VisitPay marketing team guides and coaches our clients, employing best practices in marketing, gleaned from healthcare and beyond. Adoption goals, modeled on the size of the healthcare system and other factors, keep teams motivated and working towards shared goals.