When Elizabeth Serie’s son broke his femur last year their experience in the emergency room shed light on the shortcomings of the process for patients to find cost information from a healthcare provider – especially on short notice. It’s important for patients to know the cost of care at the time of service and the discussion of price transparency best practices is becoming commonplace among healthcare providers today.
Serie is familiar with this trend primarily through her career as product manager, price transparency, for Experian Health, but said her experience in the emergency room exemplified how little information is available on cost of care. “Within a few minutes I was able to learn more about [my son’s] injury and treatment online—in between conversations with doctors—but I could find little about the cost,” Serie said.
As consumers’ out-of-pocket healthcare expenses increase, price transparency information for patients is becoming critical for them to access at any time; allowing them to make educated decisions on how much they spend. Serie presented trends and best practices on price transparency for healthcare providers during a recent Experian Health webinar “Providing Patients with Estimates: How Knowing What They Owe Can Boost Your Bottom Line.”
Today, consumers have many more options for their care and have to be mindful of cost if they are enrolled in high deductible health plans— which can lead to higher out-of-pocket costs. Discussion of price transparency is also increasing at the legislative level and some states are considering legislation against “surprise medical bills,” according to Serie.
“Surprise medical bill is a term commonly used to describe charges arising when an insured individual inadvertently receives care from an out-of-network provider, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation released in March 2016. Technology can help patients and providers be on the same page with determining the best cost of care; and providers can implement standardized processes and best practices to communicate with patients, Serie explained during the webinar.
Providers should also train staff on consistent processes and consider having a script for employees to follow as they speak with patients. This can help providers have the information they need to collect payment from consumers in a timely manner and for patients to know they have accurate in-network price estimates before they receive care.
“Incorrect registrations are major financial burdens for any kind of facility, especially when employees must designate time to work the denials and reconcile any incorrect reimbursement,” Serie said.
The bottom line, according to Serie, is for providers to determine what it will take to acquire the consumer who will be able to pay a portion of their bill or leverage available financial assistance. “My answer is pretty simple, have the best processes and tools in place to make sure the staff is satisfied and that transfers to patient satisfaction and higher collections prior to service,” Serie said.
According to Serie, providing patients’ documentation in paper form in person or through mail or email after a visit can be a critical added step to ensure they can make an informed care decision. And, providers can have a copy of that information readily available when the patient comes in for their scheduled care. A price transparency tool that patients can access themselves online could also be a win-win in the long run.
“If we can continue to get good at providing estimates, we’re also going to want consumers to be able to take some of that pressure and responsibility off of us and have them to be able to get the information on their own,” Serie said. At the same time, they expect clarity and functionality at their healthcare provider’s office that will provide a seamless encounter between accessing information online and in person.
Through technology and in-person assistance, patients will eventually be able to research their symptoms, find the right provider for their specific care, get a price estimate, schedule an appointment, receive care, manage accounts and pay for service, conduct follow up and obtain feedback, according to Serie during the webinar.
“During this online healthcare encounter, it’s truly an opportunity to engage the patient. The consumer is introduced to you and your brand at this time. They’re really seeking information; they want it to be super quick and easy. Reinforce that positive experience and your brand and build that confidence, trust and loyalty with your patient,” Serie said.
Visit Experian’s website to listen to an archived recording of the webinar: http://ow.ly/f6Nc304Q6Nw.