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Providers Plan to Meet Patient Consumerism Rise, Survey Finds

October 24, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
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“Patients truly are the new payers,” says Black Book’s managing partner

The new era of patient payment technology has put more demands on healthcare providers today, but most of them plan to meet the rise in patient consumerism with more retail-like technology solutions and practices, according to a new Black Book report.

Black Book announced key findings from its 2017 revenue cycle management surveys, deployed from a research study designed to trend consumer satisfaction and patient experiences, as well as uncover payment challenges and strategies for healthcare provider organizations.

Indeed, the new era of patient payment technology demands more financing options, engaging patients early, analyzing consumers' propensity to pay, managing expectations, and genuine cost transparency, researchers found. But 83 percent of surveyed providers plan to meet the rise in patient consumerism with more retail-like technology solutions and practices, according to the survey results.

Black Book conducted two sets of focused polls in the second and third quarters of this year with both patients and providers. The combined surveys included nearly 2,700 providers and a focused group of 850 healthcare consumers with high deductible health plans. Consumer panel surveys aimed to determine how patient responsibility for medical costs, which shifted from employers to patients, is impacting uncollected provider revenue. Researchers found that since 2015, patients have experienced a 29 percent increase in both deductible and out-of-pocket maximum costs, with an average deductible for consumers this year averaging $1,820 and out-of-pocket costs rising to over $4,400.

Meanwhile, survey findings include responses from nearly 1,600 physician practices, 202 hospitals and 49 health systems revealed that profit margins continue to be impacted negatively by traditional collection solutions, steering 82 percent of medical providers and 92 percent of hospitals to jettison time-intensive, error-prone, manual efforts to back end process and reconcile bills by Q4 2018. With millions of dollars of unpaid medical bills, many providers are instituting new processes and technologies to recover the monies owed them. 

"Employing these solutions at the front end of the revenue cycle has given patient risk to providers and the attention has turned to establishing funding mechanisms to benefit not only the hospital or physician, but the consumer," said Doug Brown, managing partner of Black Book. "Patients truly are the new payers."

Results also determined in the first half of 2017, nearly 62 percent of medical bills were paid online and 95 percent of consumers polled would pay online if the provider's website had the option. And, 71 percent of patients also reveal that mobile pay and billing alerts have improved their actual satisfaction with the provider. "For providers, that brings faster posting and collection of payments without manual processing errors," added Brown.

Guest pay (allowing spouses, family members, friends, attorneys and others to pay your bills without accessing your medical record) is also improving consumer satisfaction; 59 percent of consumers attribute the convenience and simplicity of online payments without the hassles of registration and passwords.

Brown concluded, "Emerging healthcare pay trends reveal the opportunity to help patients better anticipate, manage and track the costs of their care. Innovative patient-friendly payment solutions that

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