The American healthcare system is experiencing significant shifts, moving past long-standing norms. It wasn’t so long ago when care was received by patients in person only, medical costs were contemplated after care was received, insurance companies were the one essential payer, and patients rarely shopped around for the best healthcare at the best price.
A new era of digital payments and a deadly global pandemic has flipped the script. Health administrators face existential demands to try new approaches amidst rising medical debt, coverage loss, and delays in preventative health visits and elective procedures.
How can hospitals and health systems manage these systemic pressures to innovate and secure the revenue they need to operate, make capital investments, deliver world-class care and grow their patient base? More are turning to flexible financing solutions to meet today’s health consumers where they are, helping them plan for the care they need within their budgets.
A report from the American Medical Association in July found that collection agencies last year held a staggering $140 billion in unpaid medical bills. i And this number is low, measuring only delinquencies already sold off. In the final days of the 116th Congress, alarmed lawmakers passed legislation to crack down on “surprise medical billing,” a consumer issue potent enough to break the perpetual partisan gridlock in Washington.ii
Meanwhile, the insurance landscape has shifted dramatically over the last decade, too. More than half of employees today are enrolled in high-deductible insurance plans.iii Small co-pays are out; hefty co-insurance is in. Patients, as a result, are the new payers, assuming greater financial responsibility for their healthcare as out-of-pocket expenses for Americans now surpass $400 billion annually.iv
We’re living through a generational transformation in how Americans consume and pay for goods and services, including healthcare. We see more Americans opting for platforms like Apple Pay and peer-to-peer payments in this new e-commerce age. In the Coronavirus era, telehealth options have led more consumers to comparison shop their medical and wellness needs. There are people who change physicians because they can’t get an appointment fast enough, didn’t like the way their doctor talked to them or received an unexpected bill. Baby Boomers, who account for more than double the health spend of Millennials, are especially likely to switch doctors in recent years.v
There’s one reason why patients engage with a healthcare provider – to get care – and more and more reasons why they may leave. With patient leakage a growing concern, it has never been more important to build strong, trusting, transparent relationships with patients, treating
them like part of the family. That starts with the very first engagement (scheduling) and cascades down through every touchpoint in the patient’s journey, all the way to billing.
Health consumers increasingly want the new point-of-purchase financing options synonymous with today’s retail experience for their healthcare. The challenge, of course, is that most hospitals don’t have the infrastructure or the solutions in place to offer that. But that’s starting to change as more medical practices are embracing innovative, up-front payment models to increase patient retention and satisfaction.
Transparency can help mitigate the confusion and potential dissatisfaction that many patients face when trying to make decisions about their treatment options. Some health systems are training their front-office staffs to have more granular payment conversations with patients. Others are turning to third-party resources such as Synchrony to provide healthcare financing solutions that can offer guidance through this transition and empower them to take control over these shifting trends. In this unique circumstance, solving the patient financing need can also help health administrators solve their revenue-cycle challenges.
Synchrony is at the vanguard of a shifting healthcare landscape with our Health & Wellness platform’s CareCredit credit card, which is now accepted in 250,000+ locations and can be used by 11.7 million cardholders receiving care in 40 different specialties. We have a dedicated team primarily focused on health systems to help patients obtain flexible financing during their time of medical need.
It’s truly a new normal, and more medical practices are adapting to it by being as innovative with the bill as they are with clinical care.
i Kluender R, Mahoney N, Wong F, Yin W. Medical Debt in the US, 2009-2020. JAMA. 2021;326(3):250–256. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.8694.
ii Congressional No Surprises Act 2021 (HR 133), www.congress.gov/116/bills/hr133/BILLS-116hr133enr.pdf. Last accessed on November 3, 2021.
iii ValuePenguin independent research study of State Health Compare tool and CMS data, 51% of U.S. Workforce Enrolled in High-Deductible Health Plans, Which May Leave Some Underinsured – ValuePenguin. Last accessed on November 3, 2021.
iv National Health Expenditure Fact Sheet: Historical NHE, 2019, https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/NationalHealthExpendData/NHE-Fact-Sheet, December 2020.
v Solution Reach: The Patient-Provider Relationship Study: The Ripple Effect Starts with Boomers study 2017, The Patient-Provider Relationship Study: The Ripple Effect (solutionreach.com). Last accessed on November 3, 2021.