According to a recent AON Hewitt survey, more than one-third of high-cost patients wait until their bill arrives to determine how they will cover their out-of-pocket responsibility. But patients who use digital check-in are more inclined to pay at the point of service. Some in the industry believe the reason for this behavior is that patients feel they won’t get treated until they pay.
“Patients won’t pay their past-due balances when asked by a staff member, but they do when the kiosk asks for payment,” says Tammy Griffin, CEO of Vision First Eye Center in Birmingham, Ala. “It’s as if they believe the digital system won’t let them move forward with their care until payment has been made.”
For hospitals and physician groups, digital check-in is making an unexpected impact on revenue.
Case Example: Motivating Consumers to Action
When Atlanta-based Thomas Eye Group decided to implement self-check-in for patients, the clinic expected to see a reduction in patient wait times, which averaged 25 minutes. But it got a bonus: a reduction in the time the group waited for patient payment. After implementing digital check-in, staffing costs alone dropped by $78,000 a year, while days in accounts receivable (A/R) decreased 13 days. Meanwhile, patient check-in times have been reduced to just two minutes.
Tips From Other Top Performers
Among organizations that have automated point-of-service collections with digital check-in, three strategic tactics have been highlighted as keys to success.
Program the digital check-in device to ask for payment. Creating a consistent process that displays the patient’s copayment or outstanding balance during the check-in process helps patients to adopt a mindset of habitually paying for services before seeing the physician. Some healthcare providers have begun requiring patients to put a credit card on file to cover services delivered with each visit, enabling the provider to charge the card after the services have been rendered and the claim has been adjudicated.
Save front-office communication for patients who need to discuss payment arrangements. Doing so allows for more meaningful engagement with patients who may have been reluctant to discuss their financial situation. It also improves patient throughput. At Thomas Eye Group, front-end efficiencies boosted the number of patients seen by 7 percent.
Obtain staff buy-in. Some staff worry digital check-in will decrease one-on-one contact with patients and cause them to become dissatisfied.However, one-on-one contact to discuss payment isn’t what patients are looking for from their healthcare experience. Staff should be afforded opportunities to provide value for patients in new ways, such as serving as a concierge and guiding patients through the new platform.
Changing the Payment Experience
Digital check-in gives patients a greater sense of control over their healthcare experience, including the financial aspects of their care. Using a digital tool to manage check-in and payment reduces the financial stress of the visit—securing patient loyalty while protecting the organization’s financial health.
Brian Stone is the CFO of Clearwave Corporation, Atlanta.