There’s no escaping the talk of consumerism in healthcare. This new approach to healthcare started several years ago and appears to be here to stay. What does this mean, and how does it affect your practice’s operations? What changes do you need to implement in your practice to satisfy patient consumers? These are great questions, and we have some answers.
What is patient consumerism?
Patient consumerism, also known as healthcare consumerism, is the practice of patients actively shopping for and vetting their care options prior to selecting a provider. This practice acknowledges the role that patients play as both managers and financers of their own well-being. As patients are now responsible for a larger portion of their own healthcare costs, a circumstance created by high-deductible health plans and substantial premiums, they want to ensure their healthcare experience will fit their needs.
How does this affect providers and practices?
To best serve patients, practices must create a positive patient experience. Your strategy should start with knowing your patient population and what they value, working to meet those needs to the greatest extent possible. Patients are, in general, looking for affordability, convenience, and access to care that aligns with their schedule.
5 Shifts to Make in Your Practice
It can feel intimidating to make changes in your practice in response to patient consumerism, but it’s a necessary task to maintain your patient population. Fortunately, it can be broken down into smaller implementations that will all work together to increase patient satisfaction. First is to utilize a cost estimator. Remember, patients are responsible for a greater share of their healthcare costs than ever before. Similar to how a consumer will shop around for the best value before purchasing any other good or service, today’s patients need to make wise, value-based decisions regarding their healthcare. 75% of consumers see healthcare decisions as some of the most expensive and important they make. This is why it’s so important to make your practice pricing available ahead of time. Not only is it better service to your patients to enable them to make financially responsible choices, but it’s better for your practice so that you don’t find yourself with outstanding collections that are unlikely to get paid.
Second is to offer online scheduling. Convenience is a huge deciding factor for today’s patients, probably second only to cost. Calling a doctor’s office and sitting on hold to make an appointment is a time-consuming task, not just for the patient but also for your practice’s front desk staff. Allowing patients the opportunity to schedule appointments that fit in with their schedule, while viewing what is available to make the best possible choice, is something that will improve patient satisfaction and free up valuable staff time for more pressing concerns.
Third, digital patient intake is another important piece of the puzzle. Another traditional doctor’s office experience that today’s patients are looking to eliminate is the long time spent in the waiting room filling out a clipboard full of forms. Traditional patient intake has always been incredibly time-consuming between patients answering detailed medical questions on the spot and front desk staff having to enter that information into an EHR. There is a much better way that will increase your immensely. With digital intake, patients can fill out their intake forms online before they even arrive at the office, doing so when it is most convenient to them, and eliminating the long time spent in the waiting room. As a bonus, this saves your staff the data entry work as the information is directly transmitted into the EHR.
Fourth, remember, convenience is of prime importance to patients. If there is a way for them to see the doctor without disrupting their day, they want it. Telehealth offers that more convenient option for conditions which don’t . Offering a telehealth option in your practice is another great way to provide patients with the experience they are seeking.
Fifth, offer convenient payment options. Patients want to be able to handle their healthcare similarly to how they take care of any other business in their lives. Meet patients where they are by instituting online payments or, even better, mobile payment options so that patients can quickly and easily pay their balances. There are many barriers to patients paying their medical bills and financial difficulty is only one of them. By implementing convenient payment options, you eliminate the other barriers and ensure that you receive more of the payments you are owed.
There is no doubt that patient consumerism is changing the face of the healthcare industry, but this doesn’t need to be seen as a bad thing. We have a fantastic opportunity to improve health outcomes by helping patients to become more engaged while also strengthening our practices’ revenue cycles. All it takes is to determine what it is that patients are looking for and do our best to implement those changes.