Focus On The Health Care Experience To Improve Payments From Patients

Typically, there are numerous reasons why patients put off paying their medical bills, but income is oftentimes a key factor in patient decisions. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made it possible for low-income patients to have health insurance, many patients have enrolled in plans with high deductibles in order to keep monthly payments to their insurers low. However, this will leave more patients with large personal responsibilities, tkcert exam
and many may not realize their patient payment obligations.

In fact, many patients who are newly insured expect their health insurance to pay for the majority of their medical bills, and Kaiser Health News reported some low-income patients may switch from private insurance applied for on the federal and state-run exchanges to the government’s Medicaid program throughout 2014. For hospitals to improve patient collections from patients, they may have to focus on one thing: the patient experience, from admittance to bill payment.

The patient experience matters to low-income patients
According to a new report from the Blue Shield of California Foundation (BSCF), there is a direct link between the engagement and satisfaction of patients regarding their quality of care and their income levels. The November 2013 report examined health care in California and the patient-provider relationship. The respondents were categorized based on their annual earnings. Seventy-nine percent of high-income California residents said they felt they were involved in the decision-making process in regards to their own health, while only 66 percent of low-income patients said the same. In fact, the patient-provider relationship was so important to patient engagement that it impacted how low-income patients viewed the entire health care industry.

Ninety-three percent of high-income patients said they felt informed about their health, while only 87 percent of low-income patients who had high scores on the report’s patient-provider index (PPI) said the same. When low-income patients’ PPI score fell, only 55 percent said they felt informed about their health. In terms of quality of care, the difference between high-income and low-income patients became significant. The report found 61 percent of high-income Californians said they considered their health care as excellent or very good, while only 35 percent of low-income patients said the same.

According to The Commonwealth Fund, patients with low annual earnings are often less likely than their well-off peers to see a physician on a regular basis, which may have an impact in patients’ views on the quality of their care and overall patient satisfaction.

A 2011 study from BSCF found many low-income patients in the state said that while they didn’t have much choice in their providers at the time, cost was the main factor in their provider decisions. The study found that nearly 60 percent of survey respondents also said they wanted to change providers if they received health insurance. With the ACA now implemented, hospitals now have the opportunity to ensure low-income patients get more involved in their quality of care, FierceHealthcare reported.

“The findings in this [latest] report provide new evidence that prevailing inequities in our health care system are not intractable,” Peter V. Long, president and CEO for BSCF, said in a statement accompanying the 2013 report, according to FierceHealthcare. “By identifying the factors that explain inequalities in patient satisfaction and engagement, and developing simple, achievable solutions to address those factors, we can begin to level the healthcare playing field for all Californians.”

Connect medical billing to patient satisfaction
Hospital executives need to take charge of their patient experience if they want to improve their quality of care scores. Many patients link care quality with their medical billing, and many may be unwilling to provide payments for services they were unhappy with. While this is true for high-income patients as well as low-income patients, those with large personal cost responsibilities may showcase their anger about low-quality care because they must pay more.

Hospital administrators should focus on welcoming patients and educating them about their care options, the estimated cost of care and their payment options to keep them happy and to encourage correct payments. According to FierceHealthcare, improved communication and connection with providers can help hospitals boost the patient experience and so increase patients’ satisfaction with care. However, hospitals need to ensure low-income patients understand their cost responsibilities and receive a cost estimation upfront so they are aware of what they will owe before they receive care. Hospitals need to ensure the entire health care experience is positive for patients. Clear, patient-friendly billing can be the perfect end touch to a great patient experience – and can make all the difference.