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Today’s Patients Unsure & Confused About Medical Bills

October 13, 2018

Pricing and billing transparency matters more than ever within the healthcare industry. That’s according to a new survey of more than a thousand patients that was conducted for the Kaiser Family Foundation.

It was not surprising that the majority of respondents are distressed about the rising cost of healthcare. But what was rather unexpected was that pricing transparency is one of the biggest worries of all.

Sticker Shock

Patients are even more concerned about unanticipated medical bills than they are about the cost of their insurance or prescriptions. What typically happens is that patients wrongly assume that their procedures are going to be paid by health insurance. When they learn that they themselves are liable, it comes as a financial shock. That triggers a domino effect of cascading problems for both the patient and the healthcare provider.

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Patients Blame Providers

Another study by NORC at the University of Chicago found the same thing…that 57 percent of patients are surprised that their medical bills aren’t covered by insurance. But the research additionally showed that they blame not just insurance companies but also hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare providers. More than 70 percent held their own doctors responsible for the unexpected charges.

Not only does that damage patient-provider relationships, but it also means that patients are ill-prepared to pay. That leads to long collection times, increased administrative burdens, and a shortage of cash flow and revenue. Ultimately, it can trigger outright default by patients who didn’t set aside money to pay for out-of-pocket healthcare.

A Costly Disconnect

When it comes to billing there is a growing disconnect between the healthcare industry and the patients it serves. That’s a significant reason why there is an urgent need for greater transparency. About 72 percent of consumers are confused about their healthcare benefits. That may be partly the fault of insurance companies, but providers are also accountable.

Sixty-five percent of patients, for example, are ready to switch providers if it means they’ll have an improved payment experience. Meanwhile 80 percent say they pay their medical bills in just three weeks. But 73 percent of providers disagree – saying it takes at least a month or more to get paid. It’s like a game of telephone gone terribly wrong, and the confusion and miscommunication is costly.

Solving the Problem with Clarity and Convenience

Healthcare providers are constantly reminded that to address the complaints of patients, it is important to be an active listener. But that advice extends beyond bedside manner to billing transparency, as well. Paying attention to what patients really want can offer helpful insights for everyone.

Seventy-one percent say they want to pay all their healthcare bills in one place. The majority also want convenient online or mobile payment options. Providers agree wholeheartedly, because 85 percent of them prefer electronic payments.

The Bottom Line

The good news is that there are secure healthcare practice payment software programs and platforms that perform instant insurance eligibility verification, create custom invoices and statements, and offer multiple electronic payment options. They even let patients set up special online repayment plans to ease the financial challenge.

Pricing transparency is definitely a problem-solver. Fortunately, today’s technology can help healthcare practices solve the challenge of how to create those new levels of transparency for patients.