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Written by Andrew Neal on Aug 8, 2022

Why Providers Should Prioritize Choice in Patient Payment Communications

Survey Results Reveal Nearly Half of All Patients Value Payment Communication Preference the Most

While quality of care is of the utmost importance in a patient’s interaction with their medical provider, over 40% of patients said they would consider leaving their provider due to a poor billing experience, according to a new Salucro study.

The 2022 Trends in Patient Communications Report, produced by Salucro, shows the importance of providing patients with options to improve loyalty, satisfaction, and timely payments.

The report uses data and insights from a survey of over 1,300 U.S. healthcare consumers between the ages of 25 and 65 who have received medical care in the last 12 months. Questions were centered around the communication and billing experience and the report serves as a snapshot for the trends that providers must be aware of in order to best serve their patients.

Statements and Billing

Patients are shifting their preference to digital from paper

Over half of all patients prefer digital communications over traditional mail. While 39% still prefer paper statements, it is paramount that providers offer choices to their patients.

When a provider communicates to their patients the way they want to be engaged, payments are made faster and easier. 50% of survey respondents said that they would pay more quickly if their billing notification preferences were used.

Using messaging as a billing tool

As consumers get more comfortable using SMS text as a primary communication method with other industries, like retail and service merchants, text can be anticipated to play a bigger role in healthcare billing communications.

Only 15% of surveyed patients currently make payments via text. Healthcare providers who embrace new communication methods, like text-to-pay, will stand out in an uncrowded market and reap the benefits of a higher open rate compared to email.

Patient portals are the preferred method for payments

62% of surveyed patients use patient portals to pay their medical bills. While the traditional patient payment experience continues to begin with a statement in the mail, patients prefer to pay their bills using online payment portals now more than ever.

This digital shift can be attributed to several factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic which required contactless transactions, as well as the growing trend of patients and providers preferring a digital-first approach. A 2019 Salucro report showed 39% of surveyed patients preferred communication channels like email and text message notifications, compared to our 2022 data which shows that number has jumped to 55%.

Communication Preferences

Similar to how patients responded to questions about statements and billing, communication preferences range widely with this increasingly diverse audience. It underscores the importance of offering engaging communication methods and options that mirror the range of preferences from one patient to another.

Most patients said they prefer email or mailed statements, but a growing number said they prefer text communication as a primary billing notification.

With few healthcare providers offering text as a billing notification option, organizations that embrace this technology can communicate with 13% more of their patients in the way they prefer.

Open rates: Text vs. Email

Text messages outperform email when it comes to comparing open and response rates. Text messages have a 98% open rate compared to email’s 18%.

80% of respondents are unwilling to answer a phone call from an unknown number, but that response improves greatly when it comes to text messages. 42% of respondents said they would not only open, but respond to, a text message from a phone number they didn’t recognize.

Text reminders prompt faster payments

As consumers continue to shift their communication and purchasing habits to their mobile device, providers that integrate a more mobile experience to patient interactions can expect fast responses and payments.

Over one-third of survey respondents said a text message reminder would prompt them to pay their medical bill faster. This data point reinforces the need for providers to adapt to the needs of their patients in order to achieve a desired outcome.

Provider Loyalty and Expectations

Above all other options, patients said a poor billing experience would cause them to switch healthcare providers. Patients also indicated that a lack of payment options and preferred communication methods would play a role in their consideration to switch providers.

The 2022 Trends in Patient Communications Report shows consumers want simple and efficient ways to communicate with their provider and pay their medical bills.

Avoiding negative reviews

There are several opportunities along the healthcare journey for a provider to either delight or disappoint a patient. From the first interaction to the last, patients want to feel heard, cared for, and appreciated.

Survey respondents said inaccurate billing statements were among the top reasons they would write a negative review about their healthcare provider. Poor communication and lack of financing options were other factors that could potentially instigate a negative review.

According to a recent report, nearly half of all patients use online reviews to help them choose a healthcare provider. In order to maintain a strong online presence that attracts new patients, providers should focus on reducing billing errors, increasing communication methods, and providing multiple payment options.

Download the Financial Engagement Report

Patients want choices with all aspects of their healthcare experience, from notification options to payment methods. There is no “one size fits all” patient engagement tool because each individual has their own preferences. Understanding that patients want to be respected and valued during every interaction of their healthcare experience, providers can increase brand loyalty, patient satisfaction, and timely payments.

Download the free 2022 Trends in Patient Communications report today for more details on how providers can meet and exceed patients’ expectations.

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