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DMV More Popular than Patient Financial Experience for Fifth of Patients

Patients say paying their medical bills online is a mostly positive process, but there is room for improvement to create a good patient financial experience.

One in five patients would rather go to the DMV than attempt to pay their medical bills online, demonstrating a serious lapse in digital patient financial experience, according to new data from VisitPay sent via email.

To be clear, more patients would rather navigate online medical bill pay than go to the DMV, but 20 percent is still a hefty figure showing clear room where online medical billing practices and patient financial experience can improve.

Online medical billing has grown in popularity as more healthcare organizations determine the most convenient way to enable patient collections. Online bill payments cut out the need to mail in a paper check or make a payment in person.

But although those online bill payment systems are generally satisfactory for patient end-users, there are areas where they can improve.

Thirty-eight percent of 1,050 patients surveyed said that the online bill payment software their primary medical provider uses is confusing. Twenty-three percent said it’s unclear how much they owe, 24 percent said the platform lacked insurance information or an explanation of benefits, and 25 percent said there wasn’t much customer support.

Another 12 percent said online medical billing systems don’t give patients all of the information they need to pay their bills, and 18 percent said they were unsure if they had adequate information.

Overall, these online medical billing platforms aren’t asking for end-user feedback, with only 44 percent of respondents saying they get asked for a review of the billing system.

But hang-ups with the patient financial experience go beyond digital medical billing platforms; patients are having a hard time paying their bills in general and are getting hit by surprise medical bills.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents said their healthcare providers sent them a surprise medical bill, or a medical bill that the patient did not expect or did not expect to be so high. For a quarter of respondents, surprise bills are a source of frustration with an online billing system.

Another 56 percent of respondents said their healthcare bills are a main source of stress in their lives. Sixty-four percent said paying medical bills was either stressful or very stressful.

To their credit, providers do seem to be meeting patients where they are. Fifty-nine percent of patients would characterize their providers’ billing practices as flexible and 13 percent as compassionate. Seventy-two percent of respondents said they are given the flexibility to pay their medical bills over time, showing organizations are tapping payment plans to help patients fulfill their financial responsibility.

That said, healthcare organizations can improve by creating a more compassionate and personalized billing experience. About a quarter of patients said their provider’s billing process is not personalized, and 38 percent said it was only somewhat personalized.

Meanwhile, one in five patients said their provider’s patient collections strategy was aggressive and 6 percent said it was predatory.

Creating a good patient financial experience is important for healthcare organizations to build patient loyalty, respondents suggested. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they’ve lost trust in a provider because of a poor financial experience, and 34 percent said they’ve considered switching providers for the same reason.

Patient financial responsibility challenges with COVID-19 bills

Fewer than one in five respondents had any medical bills related to COVID-19, but for those who did, the pandemic added healthcare cost burden.

Two-thirds of respondents said their COVID-related costs were for testing, while 40 percent had costs tied to COVID-19 treatment and 29 percent for long COVID treatment.

However, patients said it wasn’t too difficult to pay off these COVID-19 medical bills. A quarter of patients said it was very easy to pay off COVID-19 medical bills and 14 percent said it was somewhat easy.

A quarter said it was either hard or very hard to pay off COVID-19 medical bills.

This could be due to the extremely comprehensive payer coverage mandated at the start of the pandemic. At the pandemic’s onset, health payers were beholden to cover a notable portion of COVID-19 patient costs. Patient financial responsibility for COVID-related costs could change as the industry determines how it will manage COVID-19 in the long term.

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