The healthcare industry has changed drastically in the last decade, with more pronounced changes in the last five years with regard to patient responsibility. High deductible health plans have become the norm, and many patients find themselves in the difficult position of having to pay high medical bills or forego care altogether.
As a recent article from Western Pennsylvania Healthcare News reported, the increase in out-of-pocket costs for patients have had the desired effect of reducing overall healthcare expenditures, but at what cost? In the longterm, the outcomes may be more negative than positive for the healthcare industry and the patients themselves.
According to a Gallup poll cited in the article, roughly 30 percent of U.S. adults indicated that they chose to defer medical treatment in 2013 due to high treatment costs. Another cited statistic, this one from NerdWallet, stated that unpaid medical bills were the leading cause of bankruptcy in 2013.
For these reasons and more, patient-friendly financing is a necessary step if practices hope to keep patients healthy—both personally and financially.
Currently, there are a couple options available to patients outside of practice billing. Those options include medical credit cards and installment loans. These programs provide financing through outside agencies, largely at high interest rates once any deferment periods have ended. These options, while somewhat effective in the short-term for some patients, may still cause hesitancy for many families who fear not being able to meet the payment requirements.
An article published in HealthLeaders Media discussed an alternative option offered by hospitals in San Diego. Palomar Health, a 690-bed system located in San Diego, began offering no-interest, patient-friendly financing in 2012. These loans, offered through a new vendor, allow patients up to six years to pay on their healthcare loans, with options to both freeze and rework monthly payment schedules to meet patient needs.
As the hospital system’s corporate controller, Tom Nguyen, said, “Most people want to pay. They want to do the right thing, but if it is a choice between putting a meal on the table or paying their hospital bill, what are they going to do?”
With the growing need for more patient-friendly financing options across the U.S., many practices are getting creative in how they manage patient costs in order to prevent bad debt or avoidance from seeking care.
Internal or vendor-managed payment plans are viable options that practices or hospital systems can work out for the long-term benefit of both self-pay patients and those with high deductibles. Other patient-friendly financing options include lines of credit for medical costs, some of which are available with interest rates as low as 0 percent interest and payment terms of up to 72 months.
Today’s medical care market offers a variety of options for both patients and practices to choose from. Your practice can select the option that best suits its patient market, with the level of flexibility best for everyone.
While patients need care, many families live on limited budgets. If they can’t afford treatment, what choice do they have other than to forgo preventative care and regular check-ups? But is that really best for the practices and families involved?
In reality, the best solution for everyone is to offer an option that will make healthcare affordable for patients who need it in a way that won’t cost them more than they can afford to pay. Patient-friendly financing may be the perfect solution for your practice—to improve both patient outcomes and your bottom line.
Thrive, from NorthWind Companies LLC, provides financing solutions for patients that have less than perfect credit by helping them rebuild their credit while effectively paying their healthcare bills. The Thrive system shortens revenue cycles by pre-qualifying patients for financing within seconds. It then establishes provider approved payment plans before the patient enters the facility for their appointment.
For more information on Thrive, contact us at NTC Healthcare.