Better patient engagement

Medical Economics Journal, Medical Economics June 2022 edition, Volume 99, Issue 06

The number of severe COVID-19 cases may be on the decline, but physicians still face plenty of headwinds, including some that existed before the pandemic and others that the pandemic created. Many physicians — confronted with staffing shortages and clinician burnout, rising patient demand for telehealth, increased supply and labor costs and a lack of interoperability between different information systems — are struggling to maintain prepandemic profitability levels.

That is why it is essential that physicians obtain the payments they are owed as quickly as possible, completely capture accurate payments and minimize collection costs. For many physicians, solving these problems starts with adopting digital engagement tools that make it easier for patients to schedule appointments and obtain cost estimates before visits and for staff to capture payment details and establish payment plan options after visits.

Better patient engagement through better tools

At various steps throughout the patient journey, physicians can implement digital tools that promote patient engagement while increasing convenience and efficiency for patients and staff. Here are a few.

Patient self-scheduling: Online self-scheduling options enable patients to schedule appointments at any time of the day by choosing from a preselected list of available dates and times specified by the provider. Self-scheduling reduces barriers to care for patients while enabling staff to spend more time on higher-value activities.

Automated, omnichannel reminders: Physicians can implement information systems that deliver automated reminders to patients at prespecified intervals prior to appointments. Appointment reminders help physicians maintain revenues by reducing the rate of patients who miss or skip visits.

Prearrival and in-clinic digital check-in: With digital check-ins, patients enter or confirm key personal and insurance data plus the reason for their visit, which enables physicians to deliver a previsit cost estimate based on visit type and copay. When patients validate, confirm and update information, it increases the likelihood of clean claims that result in prompt payment to physicians.

Digital billing and bill reminders: According to new research, 32% of patients will pay their medical bill within five minutes of receiving a text reminding them to pay their bill; 25% will pay when presented a bill via email. Patients expect the security and convenience of text and email notices to receive and pay bills.

Flexible payment plans: Physicians that offer patients flexible postservice payment plans can improve collections, reduce the need for costly follow-up activity, and reduce bad debt sent to collection agencies. Ultimately, patients want to pay their bills, but because most health care costs are unplanned, it is important to offer flexibility to create a win-win for patient and physician.

To thrive financially in a postpandemic world, physicians must do everything they reasonably can to secure the payments they are owed while minimizing investment in resources to collect those payments. Digital patient engagement tools that boost convenience for patients and productivity for staff represent the path to get there.

Rajesh Voddiraju is president of Health iPASS, a Sphere Company. Send your tech questions to medec@mjhlifesciences.com.