While patient billing is traditionally a revenue cycle concern, it can profoundly affect a hospital or health system. The healthcare system’s complex financial arrangements, sensitive patient data and other issues make it more difficult for providers to put automated payment solutions into practice. “It may seem simple because we’re used to using the Amazon app, but it is not easy,” Carilion Clinic Chief Financial Officer Donald Halliwill said.
1. Make sure it’s not just a revenue cycle initiative. It’s crucial for healthcare executives to get buy-in from leaders throughout their organizations when they’re considering new fintech solutions to ease patient billing because it won’t be successful otherwise. “Something like this can’t just be driven by revenue cycle,” said Motti Edelstein, vice president of revenue cycle management for Allina Health. “If that’s going to be the driver, then everything and anything that becomes more important makes me take a backseat.”
2. Take it slow. Most providers are rolling out their fintech solutions in stages to ensure all their revenue cycle, information technology and other systems are in sync before making them available to their entire patient population.
3. Communication is king. Healthcare leaders need to ensure they understand how their fintech partners will communicate with patients and address problems. Hospitals and health systems usually give up control of those processes when they adopt fintech solutions, said Jonathan Lo, Deloitte Consulting’s global revenue management leader. “If your staff doesn’t have the right training, the right communication skills, or even the right understanding, then it could create adverse consequences, where you’re actually creating more dissatisfaction rather than solving for it,” he said.
Carilion Clinic created a detailed communication plan to ensure its patients and employees know what technologies are coming, how they work and how they benefit patients. The health system developed a customer service plan to prepare its staff for the changes. The system also made sure its messaging followed federal law so there wouldn’t be any hiccups once the new payment options went live, said Brett Tracy, vice president of revenue cycle.
Healthcare organizations must create open communication channels and robust feedback loops to ensure successful implementations, given the complexity of integrating new fintech solutions with existing systems like electronic health record systems, Halliwill said. “Be willing to seek out things that aren’t going well. Don’t just assume things,” he said. “I was actually the very first person to go in and sign up once we were live to see how it worked.”
4. Keep improving. The patient experience must continually improve, even when there are competing priorities, Edelstein said. That often means slowing the pace of change, but it doesn’t mean stopping altogether. Patients don’t want to wait for a better experience, even if there are good reasons—like a global pandemic—for delaying initiatives.