Written by Natalie Moore on Mar 10, 2021
Redesigning the Patient Experience for 2021 and Beyond
2020 set the stage, and 2021 looks to be no different as the future of healthcare continues to rapidly move toward a modernized patient experience. From the increasingly high adoption of telehealth, to a trend towards concierge medicine, healthcare providers are going to need to continue improving their digital tools to create a more retail-like and on-demand experience to maintain patient loyalty.
Three Predictions for the Patient Financial Experience that Healthcare Providers Should Consider in 2021 and Beyond
While no one can accurately predict the future, the challenges presented by COVID-19 were barely on our radar this time last year. Even some of the most respected healthcare analysts couldn’t have predicted how healthcare would need to evolve, with Deloitte predicting that “2020 will likely be the year of the consumer. . . or at a minimum, the year of greater consumer influence. While Congress and the administration have been pushing for more interoperability and greater price transparency. . . these changes are actually being pushed by, or at least inspired by, consumers.” But the pivot that providers and much of the global economy made in the spring of 2020 also presented the opportunity for hospitals and health systems to innovate in a short amount of time, acting as an accelerant to bring about decades of change in just a few short months. But learning how to advance and scale those opportunities will be the key to redesigning the health system and patient engagement of the future in 2021 and beyond.
A Continued Need for Patient Financing Access
In order to exceed patients’ expectations, providers need to better understand what their needs are now more than ever. With 67% of consumers worried about their ability to pay a surprise medical bill according to the recent Healthcare Payments Insight Report from Elavon, and 4 in 10 adults unable to pay an emergency $400 expense, the shock of the pandemic paired with global economic issues has highlighted the need for flexible patient payment options.
That’s a huge opportunity for providers to differentiate themselves and their patient payment engagement strategy and really create a plan to provide more patient-friendly payment options, including payment plans and promotional financing options as a way to improve the patient financial experience.
Telehealth, Personalization, and the Rise of On-Demand Healthcare
The need for a renewed focus on affordability and access to financing wasn’t new in 2020, and neither was the massive adoption of technology. But while technical innovations certainly saw a boom last year, we expect to see them continue to expand into 2021 and beyond. During one week in March 2020 alone, telehealth visits increased by 154% compared to that same week in 2019, with the CDC noting an increase of 50% in visits across all of Q1. And now, even as the world makes strides in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, 33% of patients state that they would be willing to leave their current physician for a provider who offered telehealth access, showing a need for not only now but also the future to drive patient loyalty.
Even with its rise, telehealth isn’t taking all of the spotlight in the adoption of new healthcare engagement technologies. Providers are facing new challenges to maintain patient loyalty as retail giants like Amazon known for their personalization and on-demand services are beginning to enter the healthcare space. Amazon Care combines both virtual and in-person care, pairing telemedicine offerings via app, chat, and remote video, with follow-up visits and prescription drug delivery in person directly at an employee’s home or office – bringing together the perks of concierge medicine with Prime Delivery to your porch. Their focus on meeting patient needs is setting a new standard for digital-first tools, creating an even bigger demand for existing providers to improve their patient experience to catch up with an organization who has historically focused obsessively on empowering customer experiences.
Whether you’re looking to implement text-to-pay, digital statements, or even something as simple as a mobile-friendly patient portal – it’s become exceedingly clear that the best time to begin offering engaging digital experiences to your patients was last year, and the second-best time is now.
Interoperability, and Creating Systems That Work Together
As many revenue cycle teams and health systems have shifted to remote work, the transition over the last year has created some challenges and unique opportunities for revenue cycle leaders. The need to access information quickly for both revenue cycle management teams and for patients has never been greater. Leaders need to begin taking a closer look at existing integrations, vendors, and internal investments around IT and patient experience.
The future of healthcare is moving toward a more integrated, data-driven experience with transparency and interoperability as a huge focus in 2021 according to the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. In their recent survey 62% say care coordination and quality of care will improve due to data-sharing initiatives, with consumer experience emerging as a top theme for Chief Financial Officers and revenue cycle leaders. Their research showed that the top consumer engagement capabilities that health systems intend to develop include online scheduling (70%), cost estimation apps (53%), and innovative payment financing options (53%), reinforcing the need for an improved patient experience throughout the patient journey.
2020 taught us that healthcare organizations can adapt quickly, but the changes that occurred last year have advanced the need for a better patient engagement strategy both in-person and online. In order for healthcare organizations to compete with emerging retail giants, interoperability, transparency, and the implementation of more digitally driven patient financial experiences across their organization will be key to long-term success.