By Shannon Burke, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Health Systems, Synchrony Health & Wellness
Health systems are facing new challenges in 2022 with important implications for their IT leaders. Many patients, who deferred or delayed care during the pandemic, are now flooding back to healthcare providers interested in services and flexible ways to pay for them.
To address these new demands for healthcare services and ensure financial stability, health system IT decision makers must find new technology solutions that contribute to improved revenue cycle management and reduced debt risk, while fostering repeat patient business. To accomplish this, institutions’ payment processes and financial workflow infrastructure must be streamlined to better manage the overall patient care experience.
In today’s consumer-charged environment, the payment experience is very much a part of this overall patient experience. Technology solutions and IT investments give health systems an increasingly critical marketplace advantage from the patient perspective while also improving health systems’ cash flow and revenue cycle management.
Without such enhancements to payment processes, patients, who may have had positive clinical experiences with their providers and treatment, can have a dramatically negative experience once they receive and have to pay their bills, potentially driving them to go elsewhere for future care. In this new age of healthcare consumerism, health system IT leaders need to address evolving patient preferences and demands for customer financial service.
More and more, working with third-party financial partners is becoming one answer for health systems. A third-party financial partner offers solutions that can be integrated into a health system’s existing technology and software platforms — including most common electronic health record (EHR) and electronic medical record (EMR) systems — to provide more seamless patient financial interactions and improve administrative workflows.
The importance lies in selecting a third-party financial partner who can provide solutions that integrate new services and processes into a health system’s existing technology platform.
Today’s consumer-minded patients are demanding and expecting flexible and easy-to-use options at their fingertips, especially as they have increasing financial responsibility for their own care resulting from high deductible health insurance plans and larger co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses. Third-party partners can deliver tools that address these patient needs, including online account management, convenient and compatible mobile apps, access through patient portals, helpful monthly statements, payment reminders, cost calculators and customer service call centers.
Some third-party partners may also offer a flexible payment option, like a special credit card, that allows patients to pay providers in full when service is rendered and then paying their bill over time for costs not covered by their health insurance. Financing arrangements like this, and the technology that enables them, are inspiring health system IT and financial executives to identify a partner who can improve revenue cycle management and workflows to be more efficient, timely and predictable.
In addition, some third-party financing solutions, like Synchrony’s CareCredit, have credit card transaction platforms with robust practice management software that allows health systems to easily identify patients who are pre-approved, or who may already have such healthcare credit cards, even before those patients have their first appointment. Knowing in advance who is pre-approved for a flexible financing option offered by the institution can help make important healthcare cost conversations easier.
Finally, selecting a third-party partner who can grow and adapt with an institution’s need is crucial. For example, being able to provide practice management software that can process payment transactions directly from payment screens and automatically post them on a patients’ ledger is a timesaver for health system administrators and can also minimize billing errors. Real-time patient payment posting and reconciliation not only reduces a health system’s accounts receivables, but it can also accelerate the revenue cycle, and can all be credited to a solution that’s integrated into an institution’s existing technology platforms.
As the new challenges of 2022 unfold, health system IT leaders are uniquely positioned to help their health systems gain a competitive edge in their markets by enhancing patients’ financial experiences.
By working with a third-party partner, health systems can most efficiently integrate new resources into their existing technology platforms to streamline processes, improve revenue cycle management, enhance productivity, and have a positive impact on patient care. Proactively addressing these challenges will ensure that both health systems and patients have a healthy new year.