Blog, The Hospital Finance Podcast®

Consumers are seeking self-service payment capabilities [PODCAST]

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The Hospital Finance Podcast

In this episode, we are joined by Noel Felipe, Senior Vice President and Revenue Cycle Practice Leader at Firstsource, to discuss how digital tools are transforming the patient financial experience.          

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Highlights of this episode include:

  • Ways that the pandemic has caused the healthcare industry to rethink patient liability concerns.
  • How patient expectations are changing related to engagement with health care providers.
  • What areas of the patient experience are essential to and most valued by patients?
  • What hospitals should look for in self-service capabilities within their digital channels.
  • Ways that health systems rely on engagement tools to improve patient satisfaction or revenue impact.
  • And more…  

Mike Passanante: Hi, this is Mike Passanante and welcome back to the award-winning Hospital Finance Podcast®. The patient financial experience is one of the most important but overlooked areas of the care journey. To talk with us about how our new digital tools are transforming this area I’m joined by Noel Felipe, Senior Vice President and Revenue Cycle Practice Leader at Firstource. Noel, welcome to the show.

Noel Felipe: Hey, Mike, thanks for having me. Pleasure.

Mike: So, Noel, for listeners who may not be familiar with Firstsource, can you tell us a bit about the company and what you do there?

Noel: Absolutely. So Firstsource is a leading provider of business process solutions in the health care, banking, and financial services arena. We have over 26,000 members across the US, the UK, India, and the Philippines, and we represent about 650 clients. We’re guided by our Digital First, Digital Now strategy, which delivers transformational tech-based solutions that simplify business processes, elevate the customer experience, and deliver significant value for our customers. About me, I have over 40 years of experience in the revenue cycle space predominantly leading operations while maintaining responsibility for key strategic accounts. However, over the last 24 months or so, I’ve been focused on our digital transformation initiative, centered primarily around digital patient engagement.

Mike: Excellent. Thanks for that, Noel. So let’s hop right in. Hospitals are generally on board with the idea of managing expectations around patient financial responsibility. How has the pandemic altered this dynamic?

Noel: Well, the pandemic has certainly caused our industry to rethink patient liability collections. Now, given the amount of job loss and overall weakness in the market and in the economy in general, it’s caused the industry to really double click on what should be expected from patients. Our customers are very aligned with the idea that payment expectations should be tailored to the individual patient based on their ability to pay. And this really is where analytics plays a key role in establishing those expectations. Predetermining a patient’s ability to pay helps reduce friction and aligns expectations to reality. At the end of the day, there’s just no sense in having expectations or making demands that the patients can’t fulfill. So the challenge then becomes how do we gauge an individual’s desire to pay what they owe? And that’s where machine learning comes into play. We test and learn from actual patient interactions then we model those results based on certain characteristics that allow us to adjust our engagement strategies and provide the highest returns. I think, Mike, if I had to just summarize, it’s about individual patient ability and desire. We just can’t take blanket approaches where we’ve got financial policies based on balances, etc.

Mike: Noel, what is changing in terms of patient expectations related to engagement with health care providers?

Noel: Yeah, it’s all about consumerism. In 2004, I actually sat on the HFMA National Advisory Council for Revenue Cycle, and for my two-year term, we were tasked to address price transparency and consumerism. And here we are 15 years later, really doing something about it. I think we can all agree that a significant portion of the population has adopted digital self-service platforms as their preferred method for managing their personal business. Everything from how we pay our mortgages to how we buy movie tickets. We expect seamless, consumer-like experiences. Ones that are secure, they have to be intuitive and transparent. The healthcare space, I think, and I think most people would agree, especially the hospital arena has lagged. Other sectors for many, many years. And we’re finally now just catching up. We’re using text, email messaging, and are providing self-serve tools that allow patients to make payments, upload documents, download documentation, view their diagnostic results, and other activities from their personal computing devices. If that is your preferred method of engagement. And I think that’s probably the biggest change.

Mike: Are there areas about their experience with the provider that patients care more about than others?

Noel: Yeah, absolutely. I think in addition to just simplicity and security, it’s back to transparency. It’s about understanding what they owe and why they owe it. Healthcare billing is complicated, right? Everything that we can do to simplify the financial experience, the patient financial experience, is time and energy well-spent. So clearly, providing a patient with information that easily– that’s easy for them to understand. That makes them comfortable about their bill is crucial. What were my charges? You know? What was allowed? What was paid by my insurance, and what is my out-of-pocket responsibility? Understanding that and making that simple is essential in this process.

Mike: You talked about consumerism just a minute ago. For hospitals, that want to place more self-service capabilities within their digital channels, particularly as it relates to the patient financial experience, what should they be looking for in potential solutions?

Noel: Great question. So I think– I think at the onset of self-serve capabilities, it’s all about making a payment. And I think that there’s just a host of different capabilities and platforms out there that allow patients to make a payment. But I think we need to go beyond that. I think that we need to allow patients to manage any part of their business with a hospital that would– that they would otherwise have to pick up the phone and speak to somebody in a call center. To be able to manage that in a self-serve environment, whether it’s providing additional insurance information, applying for financial assistance, disputing a charge, or providing proof of payment. Just a comprehensive tool that keeps meaning, as a consumer, from having to call the call center. Because frankly, we are a 9 to 5 society, and I need to be able to manage these different aspects of my healthcare account when it’s convenient for me to do so.

Mike: Sure. In your work, have you seen examples where hospital or health system was able to quantify positive or rely on their engagement tools to improve patient satisfaction or revenue impact?

Noel: Yeah, absolutely. And so one of our clients has seen a 44% increase in cash collections. While their collection expenses decreased by 20%. And their bad debt has been reduced by 6%. And there’s lots of reasons for these results, but I will tell you, chief among them, it’s just the engagement rate. We’re seeing a 75% click-through rate on our digital messaging, our outreach, our digital outreach. Mike, we don’t get anywhere near that using traditional engagement techniques, traditional methodologies where there’s outbound calling, letters, etc.

Mike: Yeah, it’s certainly a digital age now. And the fact that we can measure that, I think makes a big difference. If people would like to learn more about you or Firstsource work, where can they go?

Noel: Yeah. We’ve got a very comprehensive website. With lots of information, talks about our different solutions. So

Mike: Easy enough. Noel Felipe, thanks for joining us on the Hospital Finance Podcast.

Noel: My pleasure, Mike, thanks for having me.


The Hospital Finance Podcast

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