10. 06. 20
The healthcare industry continues to experience unprecedented conditions that require necessary change to stay ahead of the curve.
Today, healthcare technology is here to meet the evolving demands of patients who want to engage with practices on their own terms.
Persevering through 2020 has certainly validated the adage, “change is hard.” The pressure of having to cooperate with an accelerated rate of uncertainty has felt insurmountable. Moving towards a “new normal” conveys a tone of hope, a coming to terms with a progressive way of living. However, the “new” normal may not be anything like the “old” normal – or pre-COVID times. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
In many ways, change is good. For example, a baby going from crawling to walking, a child graduating from college, or an adult finding a better job. In healthcare, healing is a good change. Getting rid of infection, taking off a cast, and relief from pain are all good, wholly acceptable changes.
The amount of change our society has gone through due the pandemic is of proportions never seen before on a global scale. The healthcare system is on the front line, as they will continue even when the “new normal” takes hold. When practices think back to the previous version of normal, there were existing challenges that quickly had to – you guessed it – “change.” Many of us are thinking the same thing – so, what’s next?
Testimony from healthcare organizations is that the pandemic has provided the motivation needed to make long-overdue changes in the way we receive and deliver care. This is a call for systemic change to address the full patient journey across all specialties. Despite the evidence and effect of consumerism, the adoption of patient self-service is slower than anticipated. “Patient-centricity” is another buzzword, but it promises hope for a future that seems achievable, and the road to get there needs to be clearly defined.
Healthcare self-service is overshadowed by the vast, complex world of systemic integration and process re-engineering that does not exist in other markets where self-directed choice is common practice. Due to this complexity, the healthcare industry requires further education of self-service solutions as well as the assurance that patients’ private information will not be compromised. It is a challenge for technology vendors to educate providers and for the practice to adopt new processes. This can result in misaligned expectations and non-adaptation to best practices. Many organizations underestimate the value in making changes. Sub-optimal adoption provides a technology vendor an opportunity to create awareness through communication and demonstration. From there, the proof is in the usage.
Every industry that has adopted self-service technology has had to overcome hurdles of acceptance. Typically, people resist change. For example, the objections to self-service technology were rampant in the banking industry at the onset of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). Today, ATMs are everywhere, and consumers have accepted and embraced them. Interestingly, even ATMs continue to evolve, for example, apps now replace what can be done at the ATM. New ways of living which previously seemed too forward to embrace have surpassed generations, age, and technology ‘savvy-ness.’
Why is this important to think about now? Patients still need care and will get back to elective treatments. The practice schedule will fill up and some changes that were made due to COVID-19 will remain. Patients though, have changed and will return with new concerns and expectations that are administrative in nature as well as clinical. Practitioners and staff can ensure they have the right tools in place as patients return to the practice.
One of the most important tasks practices face is collecting cash. Practices that may not have an accounts receivable issue still stand to face a loss in patient volume and revenue this year. While many practices quickly embraced new patient journey processes and workflows, they still struggle to recover lost patient volume and cash collection. There are repercussions of resisting change that patients desire. In evaluating adoption of new healthcare payment tools, practices must balance the value of what they have versus what they may gain from implementing new systems and methods.
Eliminating contact shouldn’t mean avoiding a conversation about collection of patient payments. Some practices have gone so far to forgo all touchpoints to eliminate contact. While this may sound severe, some practices are even avoiding the discussion of collecting payments. If your practice has adopted this method or if you don’t require payment in full at the time of service, be sure your patients are aware of when and how they’ll need to pay.
Talking to your patients is one of the most effective ways to collect payments. Many subject-matter experts weigh in to say their success has been through the relationships they hold with their patients. Dr. Nirman Tulsyan, Medical Advisor to Rectangle Health, said, “As a practicing Vascular Surgeon and managing partner of multiple urgent care centers, I found the nature of a patient’s involvement in our practice workflows to be troubling. I want to leverage the information that patients provide to help deliver more efficient and financially rewarding care to enable higher quality care.” Dr. Tulsyan is an advocate of leveraging technological solutions to make life easier and smoother for providers and patients alike.
Helping staff with direction on what and what not to say when laying out financial responsibility is key. Reminding them that these conversations are not confrontational, but rather empathetic and solution-oriented is essential. Follow-up on outstanding balances owed can be a critical point in the patient experience and there are ways to make this more convenient and easier on patients.
A trend that has emerged in the wake of COVID-19 is the tools we use to communicate with patients. Providers quickly turned to messaging technology to communicate important information such as office hours and check-in procedures. Practices are now are leveraging payment portals, websites, and appointment messaging to provide patients with guidance about services. Many also are providing direct links in the communication to make information about visits and even payments, easy for patients to access. Using these channels and touchpoints to communicate efficiently is a trend that is certainly expected to continue.
The strain of the economy and current environment drives an increased likelihood of patients suffering financial hardships. There are ways to leverage tools and technology to support how your practice handles these situations. With the current economic crisis, many patients may be in a vulnerable financial position and find it even more challenging to pay for services. However, the longer you wait to reach out with a mutually beneficial solution, the more likely the patient will run into further financial difficulties that limit their ability to pay. By training your staff, creating an effective payment policy, and giving patients flexible solutions to pay their bills, your practice can enhance the patient experience and increase practice revenue. For providers, the future will include rebuilding patient volume, reducing operating expenses due to added expenses of PPE and other measures, as well as embracing new payment methods based on market forces.
Do you remember when you only used your smartphone to make phone calls? Now smartphone users experience an entire platform of services. Similarly, the momentum of the shift to digital due to COVID-19 pushed us to expand our reach into tools that help us manage our everyday life Digital payment tools include mobile and online options as well as new payment methods such as contactless and storing a card on file. Mike Peluso, CTO of Rectangle Health, said, “It’s all about meeting the needs of the patient and how and when they want to pay for services. Patients like payment options that are convenient. Practices will increase patient payments, retain current patients, and gain office efficiencies.”
Before, during, and after the pandemic, the practices that embrace change uniquely position themselves for a higher probability of future success. In order to adapt, practices must be willing to adopt. Heightened by current conditions, healthcare technology continues to meet the evolving needs of practices and their patients. Digital transformation plays a vital role in the recovery of the healthcare practice, providing easier, safer, and more convenient ways to connect providers with patients. Now is the opportunity, while there is more time between patients and less congestion in the office, for practices to consider what may be needed to implement now for the future. Technology is the cure for unpredictability, making it easier to change for the better.
For over 25 years, Rectangle Health delivers healthcare technology solutions to simplify practice management, while enhancing the patient experience. Our registration, management, and payment tools optimize the process pre-, point-of, and post-care – for both patients and providers. We continually innovate products intended to reduce wait times, improve practice efficiency, and enable more payments. Choose Rectangle Health for easy, safe, secure, and compliant implementation of contactless, mobile, and online payment options.