There are no doubt innumerable sources of stress in most Americans’ lives, but medical providers have an opportunity to reduce at least one of them: surprise medical costs.
Over the years, numerous consumer surveys have illustrated the strong connection between medical expenses and patient stress and anxiety. Research by Access One found that 37% of Americans reported being concerned about their ability to pay for medical care, while 53% of families with children feared they might not be able to pay their medical bills. Further, nearly half of respondents, including 46% of families with children, reported delaying care due to costs.
Similarly, a Bankrate survey of 2,500 consumers revealed that 22% of Americans said they have avoided medical care — such as doctor visits, medications, vaccinations, annual exams, screenings, vision checks and routine blood work — as a result of the expense. When broken down by age, millennials (ages 24 to 39) reported avoiding the doctor’s office at higher rates than baby boomers (ages 56 to 74), according to the survey.
To afford care, some Americans have resorted to drastic measures, with 9% reporting they had to take on substantial debt, 8% had to borrow money from friends or family, 7% had to tap into their retirement savings, 6% had to get another job and 5% sold assets or personal belongings.
How providers can help financially insecure patients
Providers are accustomed to working with their patients to lower stress and anxiety about their health, but it’s important for providers to realize that they can also offer tools to ease patients’ worries about financial insecurity and the ability to pay medical bills. Two options providers can adopt to increase price transparency, relieve patients’ financial burdens and boost patient satisfaction are cost estimates and payment plans.
Pre-visit cost estimates: Providers can implement healthcare payments technology that delivers pre-visit cost information along with existing patient touchpoints such as appointment reminders and virtual check-ins. Cost estimates are based on patients’ insurance coverage, visit type, remaining deductible amounts, and copay amounts, for example. Cost estimates can be conveyed to patients via emails, text messages or in-office kiosks.
By reducing the likelihood of patient surprise related to costs, pre-service cost estimates can help providers increase pre-service and overall collection rates. A more streamlined check-in process saves staff time and frees employees to spend more time on other revenue-producing activities.
Payment plans: Providers can boost patient engagement and satisfaction by offering patients multiple payment plan options. For example, the Access One report found that 65% of consumers surveyed said they wanted to discuss payment plan options with their doctors, but just 45% had ever done so.
Somewhat surprisingly, payment plans are not only important to low-income patients, as the survey revealed that 58% of people with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more said that the availability of flexible payment options was important compared with 42% of those earning less than $100,000. By offering zero- or low-interest payment plans, providers give patients greater financial flexibility and the peace of mind that accompanies it.
To learn more about how TrustCommerce can help providers reduce patients’ stress through improved patient engagement and greater price transparency, click here.