Point-of-service: The efficiency breakthrough that hospitals have been waiting for

There’s no doubt the health care revenue cycle plays an essential role in a patient’s overall experience with a hospital. When patients enter the health care setting, all too often their focus is divided between their health and finances. Hospitals may not realize patient billing is directly related to the level of patient experience. Many patients end up playing what Becker’s Hospital review calls the “financial guessing game,” which can negate some of the goodwill earned from the wonderful care they received. According to Healthcare Finance News, a recent survey found almost three-quarters of physicians practices expect declining profits due to ineffective revenue cycle management (RCM) technology. However, the patient payment experience doesn’t have to be this way. Hospitals can start collecting payments at the time of service instead of keeping patient payments in the background.

The link between patient experience and billing
According to an infographic by the Beryl Institute, improving the patient experience is the top focus of 70 percent of 1,072 hospital executives, but 28 percent don’t have any personnel dedicated to the patient experience. Although most CFOs understand the importance of patient experience to achieving meaningful use and boosting payments, they might be missing a key element – patient friendly billing.

As consumers, patients are now used to knowing what they owe upfront. From mobile apps to e-commerce, patients are becoming increasingly accustomed to paying for services on the go. There is a digital health revolution going on, and hospitals might actually be hindering their patient experience by not taking part. To strengthen patient satisfaction and boost collections, hospitals should take note that the organization’s last impression is just as important as it’s first. There is a symbiotic relationship between patient experience and the hospital’s collection rates.

One of the biggest trends in health care right now is the rise of payment at the point of service (POS), which is collecting part of what a patient owes before he or she even leaves the hospital. Health systems are often wary to bring up finances with patients when they are receiving care and may not understand that patients want to know more of their care costs rather than less. Yet this may be a vital mistake.

The regulatory benefits of self-service
The revenue processes hospitals maintain are quickly becoming archaic in the new consumer-focused age and no longer able to tackle this growing need in health care to improve the patient experience. Healthcare Finance News reported many medical centers are starting to understand this challenge, with 87 percent of more than 8,000 hospital CFOs and CIOs saying in a recent survey they need to upgrade their billings and collections systems. In fact, 86 percent said they don’t think their current RCM technology is up to the task of complying with new regulatory requirements, and a full 100 percent noted they won’t be able to participate in an accountable care organization because of these issues.

Some hospitals across the country have gotten on board with providing the cost of care upfront. For example, Gary Friestad, corporate registration manager for a health system based in California, told Becker’s being able to give patients accurate cost estimates right from the beginning of service helped the hospital reduce its debt and improved patient satisfaction in the process.

“It makes patients confident in our professionalism,” Friestad said.

He also suggested using POS and self-service have helped the health system’s staff deliver higher quality patient care.

“They say, ‘It really helps me remember to do my job and consistently reminds me of things I might have overlooked.’ If a task is incomplete, it will stay on the work list for that person for 24 hours.”

Times have changed, and if hospitals want to truly have happier patients who are loyal to the health system, they need to upgrade their revenue cycle to accommodate migrating patient billing needs.

Clarity, convenience and earning trust
There’s no doubt self-serve and POS payment adoption is going to dominate how hospitals receive collections well into the future. It’s not going to simply be a trend, but a new way of life for hospitals. Self-service is the gateway to higher engagement and satisfaction for health systems in an era of health care that relies on patients understanding upfront how much they owe. Patient care costs have been on the rise for years, and with the complexity of insurance coverage and hospital billing, keeping it simple and convenient will be the way to earn patient trust and engagement in the future.