Author: James Miller, President, PharmaLeaders
As patients continue to face escalating deductibles and rising healthcare costs, they are becoming increasingly price sensitive when it comes to various medical procedures. However, while patients are starting to flex their strength as informed consumers, many healthcare organizations continue to resist this growing wave of consumer-centered healthcare.
For example, a recent study by Kaufman Hall1 found progress was varied, at best, when examining basic consumer-centered features such as self-scheduling, virtual visits, and price calculators. While a majority of providers did manage to publish easy-to-find contact information on their website, the consumer friendliness of their online offerings went downhill pretty quickly from there!
Here are some of their findings:
Easy-to-find contact information
Most organizations (81 percent) provided contact information on the main landing page, and the remaining 19 percent had it available within less than five clicks.
Not many organizations (28 percent) had self-scheduling available either on the landing page or within less than five clicks, while 34 percent had it available only through a patient portal, and 37 percent had no self-scheduling available at all.
The majority of organizations (74 percent) did not provide access to virtual visits on their website, while 5 percent had them available only through a patient portal; 21 percent had them available on the main landing page or within less than five clicks.
Less than a quarter of organizations (21 percent) had a price estimator on the landing page or within less than five clicks, while 17 percent had them available through a patient portal; 61 percent of organizations had no price estimator on their website.
Posted wait times for emergency or urgent care and/or check-in services
Wait times or check-in for emergency or urgent care were only available at 22 percent of organizations.
Moving forward, we believe there is going to be an increasing divergence between healthcare systems that are truly embracing consumer centered healthcare, and those systems that remain stuck with antiquated mindsets, processes and technology. Fortunately, the strategic use of patient data and data marketing insights can help organizations to quickly gain traction in terms of delivering a consumer-focused experience across the organization.
Explore these 5 ways that a consumer data mindset can help improve and truly deliver a consumer centered healthcare experience:
1. HIPAA Compliance Should Not Be an Excuse for Bad Customer Experience
Every healthcare provider is rightly concerned about staying HIPAA-compliant. Yet, with today’s database technologies, this compliance-based orientation should not result in endless bureaucratic hurdles for patients and their families. Forward-looking providers are working closely with their compliance teams to streamline and limit the amount of redundant information requests and lack of interoperability.
2. Commit to Pricing Transparency
While a handful of practices and providers across the country have taken a proactive and transparent pricing approach when it comes to medical services and procedures, they remain the exception! For most patients, tracking costs for even seemingly routine procedures, and then matching those procedures against their insurance coverage, can quickly become a time-consuming burden.
One powerful and simple consumer-centered tactic that providers can apply is to employ information designers to create an Explanation of Benefits that is relatively understandable in the first place. Here is an example from Illinois Blue Cross where careful consideration has been given to presenting patient cost data in a clear and transparent format.
3. Offer Online Payment Options
As we approach the 2020s, the idea of paying online for goods and services is no longer relegated to the realm of Amazon shopping carts and Silicon Valley startups. Incredibly though, a recent Instamed report2 found that 80% of patients reported that they were still receiving paper medical bills and had no way to pay online. A consumer-centered health experience means that providers not only need to make their pricing transparent, but they also need to make it convenient to actually pay the bills.
4. Offer A Money Back Guarantee
At first glance, the idea of offering a “money back guarantee” for health care services seems completely alien to our current system, but some forward-looking providers such as Geisinger Health System are doing just that! According to Geisinger Vice President of Revenue Cycle Barbara Tapscott, one year into the program, the health system refunded about $120,000, a relatively small figure.
“People thought, we’re just going to give money away,” Tapscott said at the Healthcare Financial Management Association 2016 annual conference. “We haven’t, but it took that leap of faith. We’re not doing anything significantly different from what we’ve done before. But we have to put the focus on the patient’s experience. This is how we build loyalty.”
5. Use Data-Mining to Proactively Anticipate Future Health Events
As providers become increasingly responsible for managing health outcomes, predictive data mining can provide strong signals about future patient health events, and lead to preventative interventions. At a basic level, we are already seeing screening being done on one single data point – the patient’s age – with middle-aged patient getting screened for breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, etc.
However, from a data perspective, reputable and innovative providers now have a wealth of clinical patient data available that can provide a much higher degree of targeting and screening for very specific outcomes along the patient journey. These types of data insights have the potential to dramatically improve patient outcomes while limiting overall costs.
Healthcare continues to absorb a greater and greater amount of our overall GDP, while also generating terabytes of patient data each and every day. In many ways this data overload combined with bureaucratic inefficiencies has led to incredibly high levels of patient frustration. Yet, there are growing signs that leveraging data insights may also hold the key to provide a streamlined and customer-centric patient experience.
1 Crnkovich, P. (2018). 2018 State of Consumerism in Healthcare (Rep.). Chicago, IL: Kaufman H
2 Instamed Report, https://www.instamed.com/news-and-events/seventh-annual-trends-in-healthcare-payments-report/