We’ve seen glimmers of good news lately about unemployment lessening as the economy begins to open back up. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go. This recession could take years to recover from. The American Hospital Association revealed in their June report that hospitals predict an additional $120 billion in losses this year.
When times are tough, people reprioritize their household bills, and very often, medical bills don’t rise to the top. This can lead to increasing levels of bad debt and lost revenue for health systems. So the question becomes: how can health systems take care of their patients financially with as much rigor as they take care of their patients clinically? We believe the best way is through offering a self-service digital platform that provides ease of use, relevancy, and empowerment.
The Power to Manage Relationships
We learned the importance of self-service while working at Capital One during the Great Recession. That experience taught us an invaluable lesson: get as many people as possible on a self-servicing platform with the ability to arrange and begin making payments, on terms that make sense for them and their families. That’s number one. Self-servicing gives people the power to manage their relationship with you when it makes sense to them, as well as gives them some autonomy on how that experience actually unfolds.
Self-service is what our partner INTEGRIS Health uses to help people easily manage their medical bills during these difficult times. They engage as many of their patients as possible in flexible self-service payment arrangements. “By getting patients to self-serve digitally we can target financial relief and provide information that patients need to make informed choices about how to manage their bills,” explains Mike Weed, SVP Financial Operations.
An Experience That Makes Sense
With a self-service platform, you can meet your patients where they are financially with an experience that works for them. Once you do that, you’ve got to have the ability to tailor a solution and offer an alternative that’s relevant to that patient. Do it one patient at a time. With language that matters to them. On a medium that’s relevant to them.
That individual approach is crucial to INTEGRIS. “We’re making it easier for patients to set up payment plans to manage their bills by providing payment deferrals for people who need it and waiving interest assessments on longer-term plans,” explains Weed.
Imagine that 30% of your portfolio is acutely distressed and in need of financial relief as a result of the COVID economy. But 70% is not. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. It results in suboptimal outcomes. To truly take financial care of your patients, you need to tailor solutions according to each patient and do it in an automated fashion that results in a great patient experience delivered efficiently and consistently. One that drives net promoter scores and loyalty. One that delivers financial outcomes that work for the patient and therefore for you as a provider.
This approach balances your need to get paid in a timely fashion for the service you’ve provided. It also allows patients to pay over time in a way that works for their family and their budget. And it does it in a sophisticated way by distributing financial assistance to the portion of your population who needs it most.
The Self-Service Approach
Self-service operates on three dimensions: It needs to be easy, it needs to be relevant, and it needs to be empowering.
When we say easy, patients need to be able to navigate the path forward with your institution. The next steps need to be obvious. It needs to be intuitive and easy to use.
Self-service is only possible if the choices a patient can exercise mean something to them and addresses the issues they have. You have to tailor something to meet patients where they are in their stage of life.
Allow patients to take care of the issues they face by providing them with the kind of hard-hitting actions they’d otherwise have to talk to a live human about. Empower patients to do something that’s meaningful to them. And save the really high-impact, TLC kind of interactions for a phone call or for interpersonal service by your call center staff.
At the end of the day, people want to pay their bills and do it in a way that works for them. A self-service approach allows health systems to get the kind of outcomes they need and allow patients to take care of themselves at the same time.