What’s Next in Healthcare Consumerism: Digital Management Solutions Benefit Patients and Providers

Healthcare consumerism is starting to look a lot like retail. Engagement with a patient now begins even before their first appointment.

Consumers turn to websites like Yelp or Tripadvisor to read restaurant reviews before heading out to dinner, and patients do the same when choosing their treatments. It’s no longer just about whether a provider is part of their insurance network and close to their home. According to a recent study by Press Ganey, ratings and reviews are the top factors when patients book appointments.

We are past the stage where technology is a band-aid to get practices through a pandemic. Modernizing health care is the way of the future. US-based digital health startups saw $29.1 billion in funding in 2021, nearly doubling 2020’s $14.9 billion. Investing in the right digital tools can help practices attract new businesses, get them paid faster, and provide better patient care. Let’s take a closer look at how this is possible and how your practice could benefit from adopting such tools.

Front-end communication can lighten the load on the back-end

The latest buzz is about the “digital front door”. This phrase may mean something slightly different to each person you ask, but it encompasses using technology to communicate with your patients at the very beginning of the care journey.

Essentially, before a patient arrives at your practice’s physical front door, they’ve already engaged digitally. Usually, the conversation on a digital front door is centered around making a date or setting up an appointment. This could even extend to SMS or email reminders asking the patient to confirm an appointment. This means that administrative staff don’t have to make those reminder phone calls or deal with paperwork when a patient fills out registration forms at the office. The patient also benefits from a simplified experience and does not have to waste time in the waiting room.

Plus, a digital front door saves time at the end of an appointment. Patients can make secure payments on their phone or computer as they are used to in retail. This type of digital portal makes payment easier for both the patient and the administrative staff, who may otherwise have to send invoices by post and wait for a written response, thus delaying the capture of payment.

According to a recent US Bank study, 44% of patients surveyed say they pay their medical bills faster when they receive digital or phone notifications about billing, and 49% would pay by text message if available.

A plan to start

As you look to modernize your practice and create a more connected experience for your patients, an online payment portal is the best place to start. Many practices are getting the most ROI from digital payment capabilities because these tools allow them to get paid faster and in a way that patients expect.

The next step in the adoption journey is digital communication. A text or email reminding a patient to pay a bill can further improve your cash flow and revenue cycle. The use of these means of communication also makes it possible to lighten the burden of follow-up, telephone listening and the management of postal payments which weigh down your administrative staff. The SMS response rate is 209% higher than that of a phone call.

Once you’ve mastered payments and digital communications, it’s time to tackle payment automation using a registered card. Patients who keep a card on file don’t have to worry about physically swiping it every time they come into the office to pay their co-payment. A secure, automated system for payment plans also allows patients to get the care they need and pay over time. Plus, it saves your administrative staff time compared to using a manual spreadsheet.

A patient is more willing to accept the care they need if they have a payment plan. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “half of American adults say they have postponed or skipped health or dental care in the past year because of the cost.”

Implementation doesn’t have to be intimidating

We’ve covered a lot, and it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect a practice to adopt everything overnight, especially if that practice hasn’t yet ventured too far down the digital path. But implementing these digital tools is usually not as difficult as a firm might think. Find the right partner to work with your administrators, who are most likely to set up and use these tools on a daily basis.

According to a PYMNTS.com survey, 35% of millennials and younger patients are willing to switch healthcare providers for better digital management tools. Businesses have a strong incentive to make these investments, but the icing on the cake is that healthcare consumerism benefits both parties. In addition to improving care for your patients who want a more connected experience, digital tools can create operational efficiencies for your practice and increase revenue.

Photo: designer491, Getty Images

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