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July 22, 2020

Redefining Patient Collections in the Wake of the COVID-19 Crisis


Consumerism continues to be one of the top factors impacting healthcare and patient collections. The widening affordability gap and the rise in high-deductible health plans have pushed patients to assume more responsibility for their medical costs. With this additional responsibility, consumers have taken a more active role in both their clinical and financial journey. Patients are demanding a better healthcare experience that focuses on convenience, personalization, and pricing transparency. And, they are not afraid to leave their current provider for a better, more engaging experience.

In the midst of the current COVID-19 crisis, this trend has become even more apparent, and listening to the consumer even more important. Many patients are anxious and feel unsafe visiting the hospital or their local doctor’s office due to fear of the unknown. Others have experienced layoffs, furloughs, loss of financial stability, and the subsequent loss of health insurance. Those fortunate to have a job have delayed medical care and procedures either out of caution or necessity and have likely not met their deductibles.

As local governments begin to re-open businesses across the country, providers are able to restart non-urgent procedures, but many are unsure how they will manage the influx of demand from patients due to reduced staff and cash flow. Patients who are not able to get care in a timely manner due to this demand could delay their care, forgo care altogether, or look for another provider who can accommodate them. Building and nurturing trust and loyalty will be key to the provider-patient relationship, not just related to the clinical encounter, but the financial experience as well.

What providers need is a strategic and consumer-based approach to patient financial engagement. This approach will provide compassionate care for patients and deliver cash for providers. The approach starts by broadening the definition of care to include revenue cycle operations, which have a profound role to play in patient satisfaction and health outcomes, as well as increased patient collections.

Just as providers are transforming the clinical experience through telehealth and other innovative approaches to care to continue to achieve key health goals, expanding financial services and support will clear the way for more patients to proceed with necessary treatment and to pay for that care.

This consumer-based approach to financial engagement also starts by partnering with a patient-friendly financing solution that can remove the burden on provider staff, communicate effectively with patients, and provide compassionate, financial care that is affordable and easy to manage.

Effective Communication

As consumers increasingly shop for medical care, they are choosing hospitals, physician groups, and other healthcare providers, at least in part, on how they handle patient financial matters. Promoting financial programs pre-service is key to attracting these consumers. From prominent website placement, media coverage, and advertising, to facility banners, posters, brochures, and other marketing materials, promoting patient financial services is a highly visible declaration that a provider cares about a patient’s physical and financial health.

These communication methods clarify for both parties the expectations surrounding payment, offering patients peace of mind about how they are going to pay and reducing the provider’s time and effort spent trying to collect unpaid patient balances.

“The right financial partner offers marketing assistance through co-branded and custom-tailored marketing materials, and public relations support,” said CarePayment CEO Craig Hodges. “Patients are consumers, and they understand they have options when choosing their healthcare provider. A financing partner that provides marketing support gives providers a clear advantage by raising awareness about affordable financing in their community. Once enrolled, patients should receive co-branded follow-up materials from the partner with communication continuing throughout the patient’s financial journey.”

Estimating patient balances is another important part of the communication process, especially during times of economic uncertainty. Not knowing how much care is going to cost can add more tension and uncertainty to an already stressful situation for many patients. Giving patients a reasonably accurate idea of their obligation allows them to make informed, confident decisions about their care and payment options.

But even with a good balance estimation solution that is integrated with real-time verification of benefits and managed care contract pricing, if patients cannot afford the balance due, they will need financing options.  Communicating all options – discounts, financial assistance, and payment plan options – is critical to building trust and loyalty.

Compassionate Financial Care

Consumers are looking to hospitals and health systems for guidance and leadership during the crisis. Providers have become beacons of hope in their communities, continuing to grow trust with patients. Choosing a patient financing solution that understands the importance of great customer service and extends trust to the business side of healthcare will build loyalty and customer engagement.

A compassionate customer call center that is exclusively focused and trained in healthcare and patient financing can be a vital link between healthcare providers and their patients as they navigate their healthcare financial journey. Specially trained and dedicated staff ensures helpful and respectful communication and maintains a positive experience for patients as an extension of the provider’s business office.

Having live agents available and after business-hours options for account access and payment shows patients that they are valued and that someone is always available to meet their needs. It is the kind of experience that consumers have begun to expect from all brand interactions, including those in healthcare.

Convenient and Affordable Options

Finally, patient-friendly financing should be affordable, easy to enroll in, and easy to manage.

By offering a 0.00% APR plan, patients can pay their balance over time in small payments without the worry of being buried in interest. Patients are more likely to be able to pay with an interest-free product, and providers are able to collect on balances owed.

Providers should also look for a solution that makes it easy for patients to join. A solution that does not require an application or credit check is less intimidating for patients. With a comprehensive solution, a patient can express interest to the provider and is enrolled with the first payment or can be automatically enrolled in the program through a pre-bad debt solution that engages patients once they have been unresponsive to other collections efforts.

A comprehensive solution alleviates a burden on both patient and provider.

As the consumerism trend continues to grow in healthcare, providers will seek new ways to connect with patients. Patient financial engagement helps eliminate a major source of anxiety and uncertainty when people can be facing serious unknowns about their health, recovery, and the economy. Once they have their finances sorted out and a plan to pay, they can engage clinically, focusing on getting care and getting better.

Patient financial engagement, in turn, drives stronger financial and clinical performance outcomes for providers.