The evolution of health insurance plans means that insured patients are increasingly purchasing coverage that includes higher deductibles, higher co-pays for physician and specialist visits, and co-insurance. Patient out-of-pocket medical expenses have risen steeply, and so has bad debt held by providers. A recent survey of revenue cycle leaders notes that of the $63.7 billion in patient responsibility each year, approximately $7.5 billion goes unpaid. That means more than 11% of all patient balances are never collected.
Greater patient responsibility brings greater hardship. In a recent survey conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation and the LA Times, 40 percent of non-elderly adults with employer-based coverage said that they or a family member had difficulty affording health insurance or health care or had problems paying medical bills.
In the midst of these trends is the fact that when patients can’t pay, they may delay or skip needed care. This can lead to costly readmissions, more expensive care as a condition progresses, and poorer care outcomes. 
Increased reliance on patient payments can slow the revenue stream
For hospitals, the impact of increased reliance on patients for revenue is slower cash flow, increased collection costs, and larger bad-debt write-offs. Becker’s ASC Review reports that in a 2017 analysis by Black Book, 92 percent of hospitals surveyed reported traditional collection solutions are negatively impacting their profit margins.
Adapting to this new ecosystem requires hospitals to rethink their approach to the patient financial experience.
Payment plans can make the difference
Payment plans in healthcare are not new. Traditionally, however, payment plans have been offered as a last resort before collection, and in other cases there’s no mention unless the patient asks for a plan. Fewer than half of those responding to the Flywire survey reported currently using a payment plan, but 89.8% of these patients said they would be willing to use payment plans in the future. That statistic alone should spur hospitals to consider proactively offering payment plans to their patients, either at or before the time of service, or when they receive their first statement.
A patient-centric financial experience
The Becker’s ASC Review article reports that responsive payment engagement with online or mobile payment tools, tailored payment plans, and patient-centric service helps hospitals to collect more revenue and build long-term relationships.
The Flywire survey states that there’s a direct correlation between the patient financial experience and patient satisfaction. When patients are offered more proactive payment options, they make more informed decisions about their healthcare, and this results in an increased likelihood to pay. This also improves the patient experience, which can positively affect patient loyalty. When patients know a hospital is going to do all they can to make it easier for them to pay, they may be more likely to return for future services and less likely to avoid medical care.
Encore Exchange delivers a new approach to patient payments
Encore Exchange, formerly CCi, is the healthcare industry expert in patient communications and self-pay management. With nearly 50 years of success in patient balance resolution and revenue cycle integrations, Encore Exchange shows proven ability to drive down bad debt while improving patient relationships.
Encore’s Flexible Business Office™ XBO offers innovative solutions that help both patients and hospitals to succeed together:
- Bill Consolidation
- Optimized Payment Plans
- Integrated with leading EHRs
- Contact Center Operations for High-Touch Outreach
- Statement Services