What will impact patient collection processes in 2024? Four areas to watch.

$31,065. That’s what the Milliman Medical Index projected as the total healthcare costs for a hypothetical family of four under an employer-sponsored PPO would be in 2023. And PWC projects healthcare costs – impacted by inflation, rising wages, new drugs and other costs – will continue to trend upward in 2024.

As the out-of-pocket portion of healthcare costs like that have increased for consumers in recent years, so too have the payment-related operating expenses for healthcare providers serving those patients. 84% of CFOs and senior finance leaders say their organization has lost money due to time spent dealing with accounts receivable (A/R), according to a recent Flywire survey of more than 300 senior financial decision-makers in hospitals and health systems in the U.S. 82% agreed that if their organization had a better way of dealing with A/R, they could increase collections.

Finance leaders are under dueling pressure to control costs and maximize revenue. Here are four themes that will impact all of that in 2024.

  1. The consumerization of healthcare increases patient payment expectations
    Healthcare consumers are a lot savvier today—taking a more active role in their healthcare decisions, engaging with care providers via telehealth, using mobile apps to track their conditions, and optimizing employer-sponsored health spending accounts. In short, they are acting less like patients and more like consumers. And as they take on a greater share of their healthcare expenditures, they expect the same types of self-service digital payment experiences they depend on in the rest of their life.

    Providers are taking notice. They understand that putting patients in control of their healthcare financial experience can significantly reduce payment friction and operational costs, speed up A/R cycles and free up valuable staff time. And they believe modern technologies and automation can help them accomplish these goals while also meeting their patients’ digital expectations.

  2. Cash-strapped hospitals must find new ways to improve cash flow
    Faster payments are a priority for hospitals, but to get there, they also need to make it more affordable for their patients to make those payments. Our survey showed a strong interest in putting longer-term options in place to fund patient payments – such as offering patients financing with a vendor partner that can manage in-house and financed payment plans. This approach accelerates collections by providing patients with interest-free, non-recourse payment plans that can extend for as long as 60 months. It also enables providers to continue to own the patient financial experience (a very important customer touchpoint) without the risk of carrying those receivables on their books for extended and undetermined periods.

  3. In payments, AI and machine learning technology provide evidence of actionable use cases
    Financial leaders we surveyed said that AI and Machine Learning technology will be important to their organizations over the next five years – with half saying it will be very important. Hospitals and healthcare systems serve a diverse group of patients with varying financial needs and backgrounds. The leading organizations are modernizing their approach to patient financial engagement – with out-of-the -box functionality that is capable of getting personal. This includes capabilities like omni-channel communications powered by AI and machine learning to understand patients’ payment preferences and personalize their payment-related interactions by communication channel. Continued refinement and optimization of messaging cadence, language and design can also continuously improve patient communications and payment conversions.

  4. Risk management is high on the radar for healthcare finance leaders
    In the same Flywire survey of healthcare financial leaders, we asked what their role would be in five years. Many respondents pointed to their growing role as “Chief Financial Risk Manager.” Specifically, they cited their responsibilities to mitigate financial-related risk including revenue cycle uncertainty, pressure from cost growth, changes in health insurance payments and legal and regulatory changes.

    This is another area where we see a growing appetite for innovative technologies. Healthcare CFOs and financial leaders are working more closely with their colleagues in IT with the goal of finding solutions that can help their organization manage financial risk in support of its broader business and operational goals.