3 takeaways from Flywire’s Boston Globe Health Equity Week panel

John Talaga
John Talaga
is the Executive Vice President and General Manager in Healthcare.

What does inclusive patient financial care look like in practice?

As it is with patient care, part of it is hands-on. It looks like the lobby of Mass General Hospital’s campuses, where staff walk patients through their Patient Gateway portal in the language they’re most comfortable speaking. Some who have no access to technology take the iPads home to see test results, book appointments and more.

The other part is hands-off, so to speak. It includes digitalizing and automating manual financial processes, and bringing data together to make it as easy as possible for patients to manage and pay for their care.

The importance of bringing the two together – with the patient at the center – was a major theme at a recent panel discussion I was part of with Niobis (Nio) Queiro, CEO of The Queiro Group and Michael Mercurio, VP, Physician Revenue Services at Mass General Brigham (MGH). Held during the recent Boston Globe Health Equity Week, I had the privilege of facilitating the conversation on “Driving Value Through Inclusive Patient Financial Care” with an audience of some of Boston’s most innovative health leaders, many who serve some of the most vulnerable populations.

The roughly 30 health leaders – some who were physicians and nurses, who represented their own companies and others who hold senior positions in patient access and revenue cycle – gathered together to ask important and tough questions, and share advice. The overall feeling was hopeful – and the people in the room reflected the ingenuity and care that make Massachusetts a healthcare leader.

In creating experiences where the patient is “financially healthy as well as physically healthy,” Queiro said, “digital transformation has to be our number one aim.” Queiro deeply understands this. She’s a healthcare leader asked regularly to share her expertise before Congress, she led revenue cycle management at some of the top hospitals, and has her own life-changing experience of having to sell her home because of medical bills.

Some of those digital transformation ideas and priorities that increase access and affordability include:

  1. Put efforts in place that drive affordability at pre-service. Move the billing process “from the back to the front,” said Mercurio, who has been in his role for more than a decade, so that a patient can start thinking about what their financial process is going to look like as accurately as possible before they receive treatment. MGH is leading some of the most innovative patient affordability and access efforts here.
  2. Increase self-service options for billing, payment questions. Map the customer service experience to the realities of the patient population, Quiero suggested, and allow healthcare consumers to solve billing issues in the “off-hours.” For 60% of consumers who get healthcare, it’s their family member taking care of the financial transactions. They’re sorting out bills late at night, or early morning, when they are done caring for their families and doing their own jobs. They would benefit from healthcare creating “an ecosystem that is self-contained, that they can handle themselves,” Queiro said. The adoption of technology needed for self-service lags behind other consumer-centric industries – but it doesn’t have to. With Flywire, for instance, patients can use chatbot functionality to answer some billing questions directly within the payment experience – such as balances and payment options.
  3. Reducing paper use helps clear the path to payment options. A big topic was the heavy use of paper in healthcare and the inefficiencies because of it. Paper-heavy processes slow many of the things that could help patients afford care – such as access to philanthropic aid or quick activation of payment plans. For hospitals – that means they’re spending too much money and time to collect on self-pay bills, if they do at all.

I’ve seen more progress in all of those areas above in the last four years than in the 20+ prior to that. There’s competition and more openness to figure out how to do this all in a better way. At Flywire, we’ve continued to expand the payment options in our Affordability Suite with fully integrated, non-recourse patient financing, digital patient financial engagement and much more – to make sure every patient is able to pay at their full capacity, as we strive toward helping clients deliver inclusive patient financial care.