The Importance of Empathy and Clarity in Healthcare Billin

The Importance of Empathy and Clarity in Healthcare Billin
The Importance of Empathy and Clarity in Healthcare Billin

Suman Chaudhuri, Vice President, CSG Forte

When you leave the doctor, you’ll have a plan of care in hand. For instance, when you break an ankle, you may get instructions for the next 24 hours, a prescription, a follow-up appointment, a number to call if something goes wrong and a picture of what your next six weeks might look like. These plans are comprehensive and consider things like your activity level, the specific way your bone is broken, your ability to make it to appointments and any medication allergies. 

This level of care is the standard in healthcare, but historically, the billing and payments components haven’t reflected that. Often, patients leave confused about how much they owe, why they owe it or who they owe. Then, when they get the bill, they may not be sure how to settle it. A payment plan should be just as in-depth as a care plan and tailored as precisely. 

Like the treatment for an injury, patients don’t have control over how payment options are presented to them. Personalized, seamless payment journeys that are easy to understand for the patient should be the standard for healthcare—after all, it’s their job to soothe painful experiences

Patient-Centric Payments Model

When it comes to payments, other industries can get away with limited options. For instance, a grocery store doesn’t need to offer widespread “buy now, pay later” options and can restrict the use of checks or certain types of credit cards with little to no backlash. However, in the healthcare industry, we know that’s not the case. Often, patients receive unexpected bills, which are not budgeted for and can be extremely high depending on the level of care provided. On top of that, the bills are frequently difficult to understand, and the charges aren’t clear. This is certainly different from going to the store with a normal weekly grocery budget and knowing exactly what you’re buying and how you’re going to pay. Combine these unexpected expenses with the emotional turmoil of illness or injury and limited payment options, and you will see patients who are either unwilling or unable to pay their medical bills. Currently, it’s estimated that 1 in 10 adults in America owe some amount of medical debt, adding up to about 23 million people, three million of whom owe more than $10,000. One study even found a third of single-family households are unable to pay a bill of $2,000 or more upfront. 

The reality is that despite these steep or unexpected expenses, healthcare organizations still rely on those bills to continue to provide a high level of care to all patients. Like any other aspect of healthcare, the payment process should be empathetic, accessible and patient-centered. By taking patient preferences fully into account and using payment journey technology combined with clear billing practices, healthcare organizations can get ahead of bill abandonment, accelerate necessary cash flows and, most importantly, enhance the customer experience. 

Patient Payment Preferences

So, what could those differing preferences look like? A recent survey found that 74% of consumers prefer to pay digitally as opposed to receiving paper statements in the mail. Though this seems to point overwhelmingly to organizations pivoting to digital-only billing and payments, digital and physical options don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In this case, 26% of consumers would still prefer to receive and pay their bills physically. In a field where bills can fluctuate from a simple co-pay to thousands of dollars, it’s important to give patients the choice of how bills are paid. 

To address the needs of all patients, healthcare organizations should focus on offering a patient-centric payment journey. Just like a doctor might create a care plan for patients who are being discharged from the hospital, the billing department should also personalize their own kind of care plan. Healthcare organizations should prioritize a payment journey that lets patients choose how to receive their bills and gives them a clear explanation about the charges on the bill and how to pay it. By allowing patients to shape their journeys and choose the payment options that work best for their needs, healthcare organizations can provide a more empathy-led approach that aligns with the other areas of patient care. Without providing these options, they risk continuing down the path of bill abandonment, and their standard of patient care won’t be consistent throughout the customer experience. 

Continuing a High Standard of Care

At the end of the day, payments and billing are a part of the patient experience, and when treated without proper care, can ruin the entire encounter. We can all agree each patient is unique, and their preferences reflect that. On an individual level, patients have health issues, care needs and payment preferences, and healthcare organizations should consider the payment and billing journey to be an extension of their quality of care. In the constantly changing landscape of healthcare, a patient-centric approach to payments is a beacon of empathy and efficiency and will finish out the experience the way patients deserve.  

As healthcare organizations navigate the complexity of billing and payments, it’s important to consider the diverse patient preferences and ensure all bills are issued with clarity and empathy. In the pursuit of sustaining the delicate balance between financial sustainability and compassionate care, healthcare organizations must embrace the power of choice in payments. By acknowledging the uniqueness of each patient and making billing and payments more straightforward and seamless, healthcare providers can combat ever-present billing struggles and foster stronger patient relationships while reducing bill abandonment and frustration.

About Suman Chaudhuri

Suman Chaudhuri is the Vice President at CSG Forte, a company that provides SaaS software that enables companies to digitally connect with their customers and monetize those relationships. In his role as VP, Chaudhuri leads Forte’s Payments business that services retail, healthcare, government, property management, and many other verticals across Enterprise and SMB.

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