Patients want transparent, easy billing, new survey shows

October 11, 2019
Keith A Reynolds
Keith A Reynolds

Patients are frustrated with billing practices and want more transparency

A new survey of patients finds they want physicians to adopt billing practices that are both modern and transparent-and they will change providers to find the experience they are looking for.

The 2019 Healthcare Consumer Study was commissioned by Cedar and conducted by independent research firm Survata between August 27 and September 1. It includes information from 1,607 online respondents over the age of 18 who paid a medical bill in the last 12 months.

Of those patients surveyed, 49 percent said they were frustrated with their physician’s hesitation in adopting digital administrative processes like online bill paying or access to insurance information, and one in three say physicians have not done enough to improve billing and payment processes.

More than one-third of the patient respondents (34 percent) have had a healthcare bill go to collections in the year past. The top three reported reasons were:

  • Inability to pay full amount (60 percent)

  • Confusion about bill amount (43 percent)

  • Outdated billing and notification processes (26 percent)

The vast majority of those frustrated with their physician’s lack of digital patient administrative practices (66 percent) were between the ages of 18 and 24, while only 29 percent were older than 65. One in five patients said they have dropped a physician due to poor digital experience and 41 percent said they’d consider switching to a provider who offered a better experience.

The survey, which identifies 94 percent of Americans are worried by the soaring price of healthcare, doesn’t place the blame solely on costs.

“Soaring patient cost sharing and high-deductible insurance plans are partly to blame, but it doesn’t take a huge medical bill to make a collections agency come calling,” the survey says. “Researchers found in a 2018 study of more than 4 million U.S. credit reports that over half of annual medical collections were for less than $600.”

The respondents seem comfortable with the quality of care they are receiving as only 17 percent said that their interactions with their physician and staff as the worst part of their visit, but their post-visit experience with billing and insurance follow-ups seem to be tortuous as 45 percent said that was the worst part. An additional 38 percent felt that pre-visit processes such as scheduling, copays, check-in, and cost estimate was the worst part.

This is tied to payment and billing practices as 74 percent of the respondents said their physicians notify them of their bills by traditional mail.

Patients are also seeking transparency, as 60 percent of respondents have asked their physician for expected out-of-pocket costs ahead of their care, but 51 percent of those who asked were not able to get that information easily or accurately.

Some of these patients are looking for these improvements within healthcare billing:

  • Out of pocket cost estimates (56 percent)

  • Payment flexibility like creative payment plan options (56 percent)

  • More bill clarity with easier to understand bill explanations (50 percent)

  • Consolidate bills across multiple physicians and episodes of care (41 percent)

  • Improved customer support for immediate billing questions (38 percent)

  • Digital payment options (33 percent)

In addition, the data also shows that patients are willing to switch physicians because of poor digital experiences and negative reviews, as 52 percent of patients consult review sites when choosing their physician and 44 percent reported that they see reviews as either a main influencing factor or a significant one.