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3 Strategies to Improve Financial Relationships with Patients

One of the realities that US healthcare providers must face is the increasing number of privately purchased health plans. High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) have low monthly premiums but require patients to pay a high amount out-of-pocket for care.

With yearly out-of-pocket expenses (including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance) for HDHPs capped at $6,650 for an individualor twice the amount for a family, most patients in the United States find it difficult to offset their medical expenses from a median household income of about $57,600. A survey by the Federal Reserve Board also showed that almost 50 percent of their respondents report finding it difficult to make an unexpected medical expense as little as $400.

This means that the greater financial risk (of default in payments by patients) has been shifted to providers. This situation calls for better financial relationships with patients who now have a significant responsibility.

Here are 3 tips to consider to build a better financial relationship with your patients:

1. Start Financial Conversation Early

Traditionally, providers delay the financial conversation until after care has been given to patients; although the clinical conversation is often initiated earlier on in the process. With the shift towards patient self-pay arrangements, providers need to start discussing patient financial obligations early in the process.

Providers need to open flexible and clear channels of financial communication with patients well before the care has been provided. Conversation on financial responsibilities should also be handled with finesse to prevent a negative response from patients. Payment options available to patients should be clearly stated without any hidden terms and conditions. In a value-based system, this will go a long way in building trust with patients.

2. Understand the Patient’s Ability to Pay

A major challenge with self-pay is that not all patients are alike with regards to their understanding and response to their financial obligations. While some patients understand the provider’s billing process well, others simply do not. In fact, for some, the process is seen as complex and confusing, which makes self-pay a rather tedious exercise.

Being able to understand patients well will help providers determine who needs more help regarding their ability to pay. In-house research can be conducted to segment patients according to their propensity to pay and to personalize the collection approach. Such research should be designed to elicit response from patients in the most transparent manner.

3. Introduce Patient Financing Option 

Identifying those who are most likely to default on payments is not enough. Providers need to introduce flexible payment and financing options to them in a friendly way. With the shift towards consumerism in healthcare, patients expect a “consumer experience” from providers.

Communication with patients about their financial obligations will therefore have to done with personalization in mind. Each patient should be able to access an automated online platform that offers customized information on their financial obligations and the flexible payments plans they can choose from. Providers that offer an outstanding consumer experience to patients will reap the rewards in their bottom line.  

At MnetHealth, we can help build a better financial relationship with your patients. We are experienced at optimizing self-pay collections by offering innovative financial solutions that simplify the payment process for both patients and providers. By leveraging our online platform, patients can access state of the art payment engagement solutions that will greatly benefit your practice.

 

3 Tips That Can Help ASC’s Capitalize on Today’s Outpatient Growth

3 Tips That Can Help ASC-Mnet Health

The transition towards value-based care in the U.S. health system has accompanied the rise of Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASC’s) which are quickly becoming the norm for outpatient surgery today. There are currently 5,500 ASC’s in the U.S. and this number is estimated to increase to between 8,000 and 10,000 over the course of the next decade.

With surgery increasingly shifting towards the outpatient model, hospitals and health systems are also expanding into the ambulatory surgery space by either partnering with ASC’s or establishing their own to increase surgical reimbursements. According to Regent Surgical Health, the volume of surgeries conducted in inpatient facilities between 2006 and 2013 fell by 17 percent, while those performed in outpatient facilities, including ASC’s, increased by 33 percent.

ASC’s can capitalize on this transition and see a significant increase in their revenue. Here’s 3 tips for ASC’s in an ever-changing outpatient surgery landscape:

1. Open New Doors of Partnership with Independent Surgeons

With an increase in demand for outpatient surgery, patients are looking for quality services at the lowest possible cost. ASC’s should consider entering into partnerships with surgeons to increase case volumes by being able to continually provide quality services at low cost. According to Marilyn Denegre-Rumbin, Cardinal Health's Director of Payer and Reimbursement Strategy, this partnership can take different forms. An ASC facility can partner with independent surgeons or those that work with both hospitals and ASC’s. Another form of partnership would be to offer ownership claims to those interested in partnering or looking to start their centers.

2. Target Private Payers

Private payers are known to prefer ASC’s over hospitals because of the lower reimbursement rates that go to ASC’s for similar surgical procedures performed in hospital settings. An ASC owner can take advantage of this by leveraging payer data to search for employers. The success of this strategy would however be hinged on whether it generates increased case volume to the center or not. And improving the quality of services offered to payers and patients is crucial to attracting greater case volume and revenue to a center.

3. Take advantage of the shift towards healthcare consumerism

Consumerism is fast gaining traction in the healthcare space as patients are taking advantage of the transition to value-based care. This is because of being able to freely choose between surgery centers that offer the highest quality at lowest possible cost. ASC’s must therefore understand how to attract greater case volume to their centers in a landscape centered on consumer purchasing preferences.

ASC’s also need to be aware that to succeed in this new landscape, they need to supply patients with information and decision support tools, financial incentives, rewards and other benefits that encourage personal involvement.

With patients finding it increasingly difficult to offset their out-of-pocket medical expenses, offering low cost payment options can be adopted by ASC’s as an incentive to drive case volume to their centers. For instance, a facility can offer a payment plan for patients unable to meet their emergency surgery expenses that allows them to make smaller installment payments spread out over a few months.

What Mnet Health Offers

At Mnet Health, we work to provide flexible payment options for patients and providers, especially for Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASC’s) that rely on repeat business and referrals. Mnet Health’s flagship product, MedDraft offers a payment option that enables providers and patients to easily resolve patient medical bills through a short-term, zero-interest payment schedule. By leveraging the MedDraft online platform, patients gain access to an interest-free payment plan which can ultimately help drive greater case volume to an ASC facility.

3 Tips to Improve the Patient Experience at Your Facility

When it comes to getting healthcare services today, patients are behaving more like consumers than ever before. Patients are now faced with many options; such as where to get treatment or their next surgery. Just like choosing a smartphone, patients shop around, perform their own research, and ask for referrals from friends or family before they go for healthcare services. This is why the patient experience is playing such a critical role in a healthcare facility’s bottom line.

Rising healthcare costs and out-of-pocket expenses due to high-deductible health plans have contributed to this healthcare consumerism trend. Patients are now the new payers. In this digital age, patients are researching their options online to find the best solutions for their circumstance. This is especially true for outpatient elective or non-emergency surgical procedures in ASCs. To stay competitive, improving the patient experience is critical. Here are 3 tips for a world-class patient experience: 

1. First Impressions and Waiting Times

Data from a recent survey of 200,000 patients conducted by Athena health revealed that the longer the waiting time before patients meet their provider during a first appointment, the less likely that patients would recommend the practice to their friends.

82 percent of patients who waited for just 0 - 5 minutes during a first appointment were likely to recommend the practice to their friends; while just 47 percent of patients would recommend the practice if they waited for 45 or more minutes. 

2. Compassion and the Human Touch

Today’s age of technology and artificial intelligence are now playing a greater role in healthcare, but compassion and the human touch is still the most important principle. Both patients and doctors rank compassion as the most important element in healthcare.

A survey by HealthTap revealed that 89 percent of physicians cited compassion as a very important part of delivering the best care (even higher importance than education and command of medical knowledge) and 85 percent of patients said compassion was very important (even higher importance than cost and wait times). Additionally, 94 percent of doctors stated that being compassionate makes their patients more likely to follow their advice.    

3. Patient Financing

With ballooning out-of-pocket expenses, co-pays, and coinsurance, comes the rise of predatory subprime lending programs designed to lure patients who find themselves in financial distress. It is critical that providers are educated about the lending they are introducing to their patients if they want patients to come back for care or to refer friends and family. Healthcare providers, particularly ASCs and physician practices, rely on referrals and repeat business to stay competitive. It is critical today to find a partner for your facility that would offer patient financing options at zero or very low interest rates. 

3 Best Practices to Improve Value-Based Care Reimbursement

The transition to a value-based reimbursement system from the more familiar fee-for-service (FFS) model has created an environment where providers are rewarded based on the quality of their service or the level of care delivered to patients. Practices will thus have to evolve in their strategies to be well positioned to bear greater financial risk while at the same time having to pursue improvements in quality. Here are 3 best practices that can help your practice improve reimbursements in a value-based care setting: 

1. Have a Clear Understanding of the Value-Based Reimbursement System

The first step towards a smooth transition to a value-based care payment model is to understand what value means; not just to your practice but to patients and payers. It’s important to understand that in a value-based world, payments are tied to outcomes, effectiveness, and efficiency. The aim is better care for individuals, improving population health management strategies, and reducing healthcare costs. How do you perceive improvement in service delivery? Is your perception of quality care aligned with that of patients and payers? Considerable effort should be made to align the measures of quality you adopt with that of patients and payers. Any form of misalignment should be identified and addressed.  

2. Make Actionable Data Available

A way to increase transparency in service delivery and gain the trust of patients and payers, which is vital to success in value-based care settings, is to make actionable data available on a regular basis. According to a report by the Alliance of Community Health Plans, data is “valuable only if actionable.” Publish data that captures improvements in service delivery by highlighting areas where value has been added and where significant reductions in cost have been achieved. This would build trust in patients and payers because they can easily evaluate the performance of a practice though the data provided.  

3. Educate Your Staff

The education of staff on how to engage with patients should be a top priority.  Operating in a value-based care setting demands that patient’s satisfaction should be pursued as payments are tied to it. According to Dr. Rita Numerof: “The satisfaction of the patient is going to be really important in outcomes. We’re going to have to look at quality outcomes.” Employees at all levels must therefore be adequately trained to understand patient’s needs and be well suited to meet them in the best way possible. 

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