Price transparency has become a popular buzzword in healthcare. While the idea sounds good in theory, it hasn’t worked in practice. There is no easy way to know exactly how much a patient will owe for a visit, treatment or procedure in advance. The total cost of healthcare is often dependent on the payer contract on one side, and the patient’s copay, deductible and out-of-pocket situation on the other.
Hospitals that have made efforts to be transparent with their pricing often publish long lists of prices that aren’t relevant to the end consumer. Further, having price transparency might not make all that big a difference to many aspects of care. For example, most patients don’t have the time or ability to shop for the best-priced care in an emergency situation. Besides, even when they could shop for things like elective procedures, many patients don’t.
As Healthcare Becomes More Shoppable
As we move to the era of healthcare consumerism, all healthcare providers will need to do a better job of presenting a clearer picture of possible costs for each patient’s situation before the services are rendered. Contrast this with taking your car to a repair shop — before they take your key, they get you to sign on a repair estimate. If anything changes during their diagnosis and repair, they will call in with the revised price, and get your verbal okay on a recorded line, before proceeding further.
On the other hand, healthcare is the only vertical where the patient doesn’t have a firm idea of the final costs before the service. Again, emergency procedures are a different story, as care often needs to be administered before the numbers can be calculated and signed off on by the patient and provider.
Providers Need to Offer Estimates
Healthcare needs to get closer and closer to the Uber model: where you know exactly how much you will be charged for the ride before you get in the car. In a few years, it’s likely that providers will need to have a firm price estimate of services based on each patient’s individual situation. Providers will need to be able to factor in a patient’s insurance, a guarantee of coverage for a specific treatment, co-pays, deductibles and more.
It is also critical that providers start planning for this now before retail giants get into healthcare delivery. Believe it or not, this is coming sooner than most people expect. Amazon is already working its way into the healthcare space and, last month, Walmart Health opened its first supercenter. If history repeats itself, the retail giants will make a name for themselves in this space, too.
Incorporate Digital Engagement
When you’re ready to move forward into the price transparency world, take it slowly. Begin by establishing a digital relationship with your patients from their first visit. Keep them informed about their estimated cost upfront.
When explaining the cost to them, give them personalized reasons that are meaningful to them. Psychographic segmentation model can help you do this. Using this proven and proprietary model, you can understand better what motivates each individual patient and what’s important to them. You can then leverage these insights as you go through with the treatment to explain why they need it, especially if the cost is high.
Make sure you also keep your patients updated with any changes to the estimates. While it is usually a “what will be will be” situation, it shows a higher level of respect and care when you keep them informed. After their visit or procedure, follow up digitally to make sure the patient is doing well.
Then, after you’ve built up this relationship of trust, inform them that they can make their payments digitally, even before you send that first bill. If you have to nudge them with patient payment reminders, PatientBond’s digital engagement platform and psychographic segmentation model can help you use the right messaging.
Having a strong engagement platform can help your organization amplify the effects of price transparency, but it all comes back to that user friendly estimate that takes into account the individual situation from both a care and insurance standpoint. Patients will likely be less stressed about the cost if they know approximately what to expect when the bills come. Price transparency is just beginning to grow, and digital engagement platforms can help you make it a success.
For more on PatientBond’s digital engagement platform and how it could help your private practice, hospital or urgent care earn a 20:1 return on investment, download our case study.