The Power of Digital-First Engagement in Revenue Cycle

By Mark Spinner, President and CEO, AccessOne
Twitter: @myaccessone

The move toward an omnichannel communications strategy in revenue cycle—from secure texts to online chat, patient portals and phone support—creates a customized experience that boosts patient satisfaction and financial engagement. But what does consumer data tell us about the ways patients want to be engaged—and how quickly do they respond to digital communications around payment?

Recently, AccessOne conducted a consumer survey around consumers’ digital engagement preferences and behaviors. The results point to keys to developing an individualized, highly digital patient financial experience that drives financial engagement and optimizes account management and customer service.

How Consumers Respond to a Digital-First Approach

While one-in-four consumers prefer to communicate with healthcare providers via mail about their healthcare costs and payment options, most prefer to communicate by phone or digitally—especially via email (39%) or the patient portal (31%). Among 1,000 consumers surveyed, one in five say they would try secure text message for patient financial communications. Slightly less (18%) would consider communications via a health system mobile app.

When receiving patient financial communications via secure text message, half would open the message in five minutes or less. This compares to 43% of those receiving communications via mobile app, 39% receiving messages via email, and 37% receiving messages via the patient portal. In each of these areas and for those who receive communications via mail, 70% of consumers open the communication within one hour of receiving it.

What is most striking, however, are payment response times through digital channels. When consumers receive payment due notifications through their preferred digital channels, about half will pay through that channel in less than one hour. Further, a significant proportion will pay their bill less than five minutes:

  • Secure text: 32%
  • Email: 26%
  • Mobile app: 30%
  • Patient portal: 25%

These figures demonstrate the potential for revenue cycle departments to strengthen engagement and collections when they take a digital-first approach to patient financial communications.

Developing the Right Digital Strategy for Revenue Cycle

How can revenue cycle leaders optimize efficiency, revenue and the patient financial experience through digital communications? Here are five approaches to consider.

  1. Meet patients where they are. Ask patients for their communication preferences, offering a range of options, and leverage their preferred channels in sending patient estimates, information regarding out-of-pocket costs, payment notifications, and links for payment plan enrollment. When direct communication regarding preferences is not available, look to past payment behavior to determine an individual’s desired method.
  2. Use analytics to customize the communication approach to the individual. Increasingly, healthcare organizations are using machine learning to ascertain the time of day and day of week when individuals are most likely to open financial communications, including payment alerts. By allowing data to inform communications delivery, healthcare revenue cycle departments can drive higher open rates for messages.
  3. Provide self-service options for consumers across digital channels. For example, offer opportunities for patients to not only obtain financial estimates for service online, but also to self-enroll in payment plans, when needed. Include tap-to-pay functionality in your organization’s payment design strategy. The best organizations also allow consumers to change the terms of patient financing online—for example, moving from no-interest to low-interest payment plans for a more manageable monthly payment amount, when needed.
  4. Automate revenue cycle functions where it makes sense to do so. Leading organizations are exploring the use of automation to identify and prioritize qualified customers for payment plans. They also use advanced personalization analytics to dynamically select the right messaging, language and modality for financial communications and machine learning-enabled feedback loops to engage patients via customized outreach.
  5. Activate the financial behavior you wish to see through education and frictionless payment options. Dynamically educate and engage consumers on their financial responsibility for care through embedded bill summaries and e-statements. Look for opportunities during one-on-one communications to augment individuals’ information with details regarding ways to most effectively meet their needs, socially and economically.

Efforts such as these drive better financial engagement and higher-quality care. They also support development of individualized, highly digital experiences for consumers. Done correctly, these approaches optimize account management and customer service, putting hospitals in a better position to strengthen their patient financial experience and overall financial performance in 2021 and beyond.