Most hospitals and health systems claim to be patient-centered, but they don’t all put their money where their mouth is when it comes to helping patients access and pay for care.

Rene Letourneau, for HealthLeaders Media, recently talked to Gundersen Health System about tools that take the consumer perspective on bills, improve the patient experience, and in turn, boost the revenue cycle.

When Laurie Hurwitz became the executive director for revenue cycle at La Crosse, WI-based Gundersen Health System about a year ago, she was determined to simplify the system’s billing and collections processes.

“I was interested in finding a better solution for the patient. I wanted it to be easy for them to immediately understand what they owe and what they need to do to pay,” Hurwitz says.

“I care more about the patient experience than I do about collecting from the patient, which might sound strange coming from a finance person, but I believe one follows the other. If we don’t do what is right for the patient, I believe it will impact us financially.”

With that in mind, Hurwitz led Gundersen’s transition to a new billing process that offers self-service payment options via email and the MyChart patient portal in its electronic health record. The new billing methods were rolled out across 36 locations in five months.

The early results are significant. Gundersen has experienced a 132% rise in payments coming in through a self-service option and a 13% decrease in cost per statement. Additionally, in a patient satisfaction survey, 76% of patients indicated they would recommend Gundersen due to their recent payment experience.

Hurwitz believes patient convenience is increasingly important to the future of provider organizations.

One of the positive “unintended consequences” of Gundersen’s new self-service payment strategy is it shows staff that leadership is committed to changing the system’s business practices to better meet patients’ needs, she says.

“This sent a very clear message that we are not going to do things the way we have done them in the past. It’s transformative.”

Read more about Gundersen’s innovative approach from HealthLeaders Media here.