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How to Elevate Patient Satisfaction Strategy for Revenue, Operations

Transforming patient experience strategy from a one-size-fits-all approach to one that aligns with consumer needs can boost revenue, streamline operations, and even support clinical care.

Healthcare organizations are slipping on their patient satisfaction strategy and research shows that the inability to meet evolving patient needs is putting providers at risk of losing customers, revenue, and their reputations.

“With the rise of high deductible healthcare plans and the average deductible being greater than the average cost of care, the patient now has to pay the bill.  When a patient has to pay the bill they will behave more like a consumer and consumers have different expectations of what a bill pay experience should be.  Frankly, what they want is a retail experience.  A convenient, simple and fast bill pay experience.”

Despite this shift in patient experience, fewer than one in ten healthcare organizations excels in healthcare consumerism, according to the latest data from consulting firm Kaufman Hall. This statistic means that only about 7 percent of organizations have a vision for and have dedicated resources to building infrastructure that aligns with consumer-centric care.

While healthcare organizations have huge hurdles with modernizing processes, their consumers are expecting more from their patient experiences.

Align patient experience with consumer needs

About 83 percent of covered workers have a deductible in their employer-sponsored health plan, up significantly from 70 percent about a decade ago, Kaiser Family Foundation reports. During that time, the average amount of those deductibles has also increased significantly, generating a combined burden that is 111 percent greater on those with employer-sponsored coverage.

With patients owing more out of their own pockets, they have started to expect more from their providers. They are drawing on their experiences in other industries to set those expectations.

Retail, hospitality, airline, and eCommerce are among the industries patients are most familiar with, as well as the industries that are arguably most attuned to consumer needs. These industries are known for their innovations around frictionless consumer experiences, and patients are coming to demand the same type of encounter with their providers, especially when it comes to paying their medical bills.

“We are all consumers and we expect the bill to be easy to understand and easy to pay.” McMurray explains.

Data shows that to provide a retail-like patient experience, consumers are seeking self-service options, automated communication options, more payment options, and a digital front door, among other capabilities. Failure to deliver on these capabilities could also delay patient collections for providers and push patients to change doctors even if the clinical aspect of the encounter was satisfactory.

“Patients don’t typically separate the clinical experience from the financial experience,” says Jason Mazeika, Director of Patient Experience at Zotec Partners. “They might have a really good experience with the doctor, but if they have an unsatisfactory financial experience, then they may link the two. They may stop going to that doctor or even leave a bad review on social media or with their friends and family. It’s really important to take a holistic approach, from scheduling, registering, medical encounter, and closing out the balance on the financial side, so the experience is seamless and positive.”

Overcome the challenges of consumer-centric healthcare

Plenty of surveys, reports, and studies have demonstrated the move to healthcare consumerism and a shift in patient experience expectations. Yet, seemingly as many statistics show that healthcare organizations are still behind with fulfilling consumer needs.

To execute a top-tier patient experience, healthcare organizations need to understand the specific needs of their patients, provide those capabilities, and be agile enough to alter their strategy when preferences evolve. After all, a patient experience strategy is not one-size-fits-all.

Each patient goes to a healthcare provider for a specific medical reason or service, so providers may need different payment structures and/or processes to align with each patient’s specific needs during a healthcare encounter.

“Patients have different communication and payment preferences. Providing more options and choices solves most of the inherent needs to personalize bill care,” notes McMurray.

Gathering and tracking patient satisfaction feedback is paramount to finding what payment options your patients want—whether it is digital payment, payment plans, or even a paper bill—as well as delivering omnichannel communication.

Omnichannel patient communication enables patients to connect with their providers through a variety of means, such as online appointment schedulers, digital bill pay and price transparency, and artificial intelligence-driven chatbots, to name a few. The goal of these capabilities is to work together to unify the patient experience from registration to final bill pay.

Tapping technology to optimize patient satisfaction can help healthcare organizations deliver an excellent patient experience while conserving their in-house resources to focus on clinical care, not patient bill payment. In turn, organizations can improve the whole patient experience—not just the financial aspect—while supporting the bottom line.

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