Better Patient Financial Communications Give Healthcare Managers an Edge

We are back from the 2017 HFMA ANI conference in Orlando, and it was a busy, event-filled conference with timely sessions and many new contacts made. The three themes that stood out at this premier educational event for top healthcare decision makers were collaboration, value based care, and patient engagement.

I zeroed in on sessions discussing improving patient engagement through better financial communication.  Many providers said they are looking beyond the traditional revenue cycle to the entire patient journey and early opportunities to engage through omni-channel, personalized healthcare communications.  

One session that caught my eye was with Wendi Bennett, assistant director of patient finance for Novant Health, a 14-hospital system based in Winston-Salem, N.C.  Many of the practices Wendi outlined dovetailed with what we tell our clients: develop a strategic focus on communications and payments as a critical part of the patient experience.

Wendi discussed how Novant started patient engagement on the front end by handing out cards to patients. The cards included a manager’s name and contact info with the wording, “We hear you.”  Novant also redesigned its billing statements to allow for updates to accurately reflect new payments. She also said Novant scored patient accounts based on their ability to pay and payment history. That score gave them insight on a patient’s ability to pay a new bill so they could offer financial assistance programs to those who couldn’t pay.

 “It’s more than just statements and collections,” Wendi told the audience. “There’s a broad spectrum of encounters, from the front end to the back…our staff checks if there are programs offering help. And if there’s something we don’t offer, maybe there is a community program we can sign them up for.” 

The results: Novant’s payment plan recourse rate fell 63% to 12 percent. Improving patient engagement also allowed Novant to reduce the number of statements sent, further reducing postage and printing costs. She also said that providing assistance to patients encourages patient loyalty. “It shows your hospital is willing to go further in assisting patients in ways others cannot,” she said.

We could not agree more.  Patients satisfied with billing are five times more likely to recommend the hospital than those who were not, 82% vs. 15%, according to a Connance survey of healthcare consumers.  Along the same theme, a TransUnion Healthcare survey found that patients who had a positive billing and payment experience gave higher marks for the actual care received compared to patients who had issues with their billing. 

Those attending this session left with a good example of how the patient is affected by every communication and every billing interaction.

About the Author

Rich leads Nordis Technologies’ sales and client relations teams and is responsible for revenue growth and client retention. He’s been integral to the company’s fast growth, doubling sales since 2010, and playing a key role in developing new products including ExpressoPay, ExpressoVote and ExpressoArchive. An expert in communications management, financial engagement, production execution and cost optimization, Rich uses his experience to assist customers dramatically improve their communications and payments operations and achieve key objectives. He is a member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association.