In this Business Profile, KaLynn Gates, president and corporate counsel for HealthFirst Financial, discusses how a patient-centered financing program can drive patient satisfaction and enhance loyalty while improving organizational financial performance.

KaLynn GatesHow do you help healthcare organizations?

Founded in 2001, HealthFirst Financial is a national patient financing leader that helps people afford healthcare services while improving healthcare organizations' financial performance. We offer low- or no-interest credit lines that patients can use to pay for all types of care, including inpatient, outpatient, acute, elective, and cosmetic services. Patients are able to make monthly payments as low as $25 across a term of up to 60 months with no credit check. HealthFirst Financial works with more than 220 facilities across 35 states, elevating the health of communities by making care more financially accessible.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you see affecting healthcare organizations?

The biggest problem right now is that there is a lot of uncertainty, and it's distracting. Many organizations are worrying about what the future will hold, especially with regard to the regulatory environment. However, there is a danger in getting caught up in the problems of the moment because organizations can fail to see the bigger picture. Hospitals and health systems should be considering long-term objectives that will remain relevant despite any changes to the healthcare landscape. These may include growing market share, improving financial margins, increasing patient satisfaction, responding to rising consumerism, and investing in community health.

Hospitals and health systems can use HealthFirst Financial's scalable patient financing program to meet any of the aforementioned objectives. For example, our program can boost patient satisfaction, cultivate patient loyalty, and expand market share by providing a user-friendly method for patients to meet their financial obligations. According to a recent market survey, 96 percent of account holders would recommend HealthFirst Financial to their friends and family, and 94 percent said that we made them more likely to use their healthcare provider for future medical needs.

What are some key considerations for healthcare leaders when choosing this type of product or service?

First and foremost, organizations should make sure that a patient financing product helps them meet their objectives. It must encompass an approach to financing that enables greater patient satisfaction while prompting payment. You want to be certain that patient-centered operations are a vendor's top priority. At the end of the day, a patient financing service is an extension of your facility, and the vendor should treat patients as your facility would, keeping them at the center of operations.

Next, the solution should have the proper controls in place to secure and protect provider and patient data. For instance, the vendor should be certified and have deep experience in handling patient health information. The company should also have a compliance team and perform regular audits. Recently, HealthFirst Financial received the SOC 1 Type II designation, highlighting our strength in managing information security and compliance risks.

Additionally, a patient financing program should be convenient, offering a mobile application and allowing patients to add charges to their accounts via a portal. Organizations should be able to tailor a patient financing program to their needs and the needs of their patients. The program should also make staff's lives easier and involve a straightforward, step-by-step implementation process.

Finally, a vendor should provide real-time reports that let you track performance. More specifically, you should have access to call center reports so you can verify how calls are being conducted and whether they improve the patient experience. If a report indicates a problem, the vendor should take ownership, making alterations as needed to resolve any issues.

What advice would you offer to healthcare leaders when choosing among vendors?

In addition to the previously noted characteristics, organizations should also seek a vendor that is flexible and scalable. At HealthFirst Financial, we tailor our programs to meet our clients' needs, as opposed to asking them to change their processes to meet our requirements. For example, if an organization is only looking to provide financing opportunities at the front end, we can do that. Or, if an organization just wants to offer financing for certain specialties, we can accommodate that as well. However, if an organization is seeking a holistic program with multiple access points, we can deliver that, too.

We also are flexible regarding program management. Some providers want to control the entire experience, working with patients during registration to set up accounts. Others have limited staffing and resources and would prefer to transfer people by phone to our company, where what we call the "patient experience master" can work with the patient. Then there are other organizations that want us to handle the entire relationship, from start to finish. It all comes down to how organizations want us to interact with their patients.

Another advantage to our system is that we are recourse-based, which provides us with the freedom to accept a wide range of demographics. As a result, we prevent accounts from aging in accounts receivable and being claimed as bad debt. If a patient defaults on his or her payment after 60 days, the account is returned to the facility for further action. The advantage of a recourse program is that patients can participate in it with no adverse effects to their credit status. It is simply a way to make paying for health care easier.

As healthcare organizations implement your product or service in their day-to-day operations, how can they can best set themselves up for success?

Have clear objectives from the start. Our system has the potential to deliver many benefits, and if an organization has well-defined objectives, then we can better construct an appropriate program. Once we know what the goals are, we can strategize on how the service can meet the objectives and provide training and education to staff to set them on the path toward success.

Are there any educational materials you would like to share to help healthcare providers in these efforts?

For more information about patient financing, please visit www.healthfirstfinancial.com/hfma.

Founded in 2001, HealthFirst Financial is a national patient financing leader that has helped hundreds of thousands of patients afford care while improving the financial performance of healthcare organizations. HealthFirst Financial is the first and only company awarded the prestigious Peer Review Designation from the Healthcare Financial Management Association for its patient financing programs—following a rigorous evaluation of the overall effectiveness, quality, and value of its payment solutions. Oregon-based HealthFirst Financial patient financing programs are available at more than 220 healthcare facilities across the United States.


HealthFirstContent for this Business Profile is supplied by HealthFirst Financial. This published piece is provided for advertisement purposes. HFMA does not endorse the published material or warrant or guarantee its accuracy. The statements and opinions of those profiled are those of the individual and not those of HFMA. References to commercial manufacturers, vendors, products, or services that appear do not constitute endorsement by HFMA. 


Publication Date: Friday, September 01, 2017