Laxmi Patel | Chief Strategy Officer
A successful revenue cycle should not be seen as a series of numbers, financial statements, and outcomes. It must encompass the entire patient journey, which should continue to be the central focus and the heart of healthcare. Unfortunately, in pursuit of efficiency and cost-cutting measures, many patient advocacy programs have been eliminated or downsized. In today’s evolving landscape where margins are thin, patient advocacy and the patient experience throughout the revenue cycle becomes neglected, despite revenue cycle management being more important than ever.
As the industry continues to focus on automation and processes to lower cost-to-collect, it is essential to ensure that these efforts remain patient-centric. When we consistently apply a patient-centric approach across all touchpoints, patients feel valued as individuals, they develop trust in our organizations, are more likely to seek care without apprehension, and become more loyal to our practices. It takes just one negative interaction for a patient to consider switching providers or neglecting their healthcare needs altogether. Investing in the patient journey pays off by empowering patients to make better decisions about their healthcare, utilize available care pathways, and ensuring a stable revenue cycle for healthcare organizations.
Balancing Financial and Care Perspectives
Within one single patient appointment there are some 14 connection points a provider must make; providing many opportunities to demonstrate a patient-centric approach. Here are just a few of the steps providers can take to that their processes and patient connections are patient-centric using revenue cycle management.
Reinvest in patient advocacy to enhance the patient experience.
Education lies at the heart of a patient-centric approach. Simple education initiatives, such as informing patients about their annual preventative checkup covered by most insurance plans, can drive more regular preventative care visits. This, in turn, leads to earlier identification of treatable conditions, reducing the need for urgent care or ER visits. Seemingly small efforts can have significant impact.
Adopt an omnichannel communication strategy.
It is critical to reach the patient with relevant messages when, where and how they are receptive to it. By providing multiple communication options based on preference, we ensure they are well-informed about next steps in their care and financial obligations.
Take the time to map out the patients’ care journey.
When we do this, each touchpoint is optimized. This allows for better care as well as provides an opportunity for patients to understand costs related to care and their financial obligations. When patients have a better understanding of the care continuum, they are more likely to actively participate in their treatment plans and are able to make informed choices for themselves.
Provide a simplified description of the payment options and process.
This ensures price transparency. Healthcare costs are often unknown, confusing, or misunderstood, which prevents patients from getting the care they need.
Offer payment plans early and upfront.
Empower patients with knowledge about financial assistance programs and encourage them not to limit care due to financial constraints. This balances empathy and education, ensuring patients receive necessary care without compromising their financial well-being.
Train staff in empathy.
Develop a regular cadence of trainings to ensure your staff understands the value of empathy and that they consistently employ a patient-centric approach.
Regularly survey for feedback and act on the feedback received.
This feedback loop should consist of patient feedback surveys and confidential, interdepartmental peer to peer surveys. Once feedback has been gathered and action steps are obvious; have the courage to act upon that feedback for an improved patient experience.
Achieving a delicate equilibrium between automation and human engagement is critical in revenue cycle management. This balance not only enhances the patient experience but also enables healthcare systems to effectively manage patient communication and financial obligations while delivering optimal clinical care. By adopting a patient-centric approach alongside harnessing the power of automation, healthcare institutions can drive better health outcomes. I implore the revenue cycle management industry to personalize interactions, when possible, approach patients with sensitivity and empathy, education and inform them, and resolve issues with a human touch. By finding this balance, we can build stronger bonds with our patients, improving the entire healthcare continuum for both patients and healthcare organizations.