How to Keep Patients From Switching Providers

December 16, 2019
MHE Staff
MHE Staff

A new survey reveals the issues that detract from the patient experience.

Consumers need up-front information on out-of-pocket costs and extended payment options-and they’re willing to switch providers to get it, according to a new survey.

Two out of five consumers say they would switch providers to access affordable payment arrangements to cover their costs of care-including half of households with children, according to a recent AccessOne survey. Meanwhile, three out of four consumers are willing to shop around for care based on price, and 38% are already doing so. Consumers also are pushing for cost information before care is delivered.

“When consumers don’t feel prepared to manage the costs of their care, they are more likely to postpone treatment to avoid the expense,” says Mark Spinner, president and CEO, AccessOne, a provider of flexible, co-branded patient financing solutions located in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Fifty-six percent of consumers have delayed care due to costs. Twenty-six percent have delayed treatment by a year or more out of fear that they couldn’t afford it.”

Related: Consumers Will Switch Providers Over Poor Digital Experiences

According to the survey, 59% of consumers say providers’ willingness to share price information is a critical factor in determining where to seek care. This includes 69% of Gen Xers, who typically manage care for themselves, their parents, and their children.

“Consumers bear an enormous cost burden in a rising-rate healthcare environment, and it’s changing their behavior in a way that impacts market share for providers as well as core consumption of care and, ultimately, clinical outcomes,” Spinner says. “Providers that close the gap on price transparency and affordability are better positioned to earn consumers’ loyalty and trust as well as support better long-term health in their communities.”

The survey reveals the point at which healthcare costs become a concern for consumers. Forty percent aren’t sure how they would pay an unexpected medical expense under $500, and 60% say an unexpected medical bill of up to $999 would spark worry over how to manage the expense. Smaller amounts also are cause for concern for some consumers, with 22% saying a bill less than $250 would prompt financial stress.

Then there’s the matter of how to pay for the care they have received:

  • One in five consumers don’t understand their options for paying for medical procedures or other healthcare expenses.

  • Just 27% are very satisfied with their options for payment.

  • Consumers also aren’t likely to receive payment plan information from their providers: 74% of survey respondents say that in the past two years, their providers have not spoken with them regarding patient financing options or the availability of a payment plan.

“Each of these experiences detracts from the patient experience,” Spinner says. “That’s why one of the biggest risks providers face when they don’t develop a patient-centric approach to price transparency is loss of patients.”

Based on the survey, Spinner recommends:

  • Providers put patients at the heart of their price transparency strategy. “They can do this by providing easy ways for patients to obtain cost information, such as by listing prices for common procedures on their website. It’s also important to make price transparency meaningful,” he says. “Share the patient’s anticipated out-of-pocket costs prior to the point of service, and make sure the amount due takes into account the portion of the patient’s deductible met to date.”

  • Providers also should initiate patient financial discussions early in the patient encounter. For example, when staff provide out-of-pocket estimates, make sure they talk with patients about their ability to pay for the care they will receive, according to Spinner. “This is also an excellent time to determine whether a payment plan is needed,” he says.

  • Offering flexible options for payment also is key. “One size does not fit all,” Spinner says. “Offering a variety of payment options helps patients pay with dignity, no matter their financial circumstance.”