The Link Between Patient Engagement & Reimbursement

October 13, 2020 by Antonio Arias, MBA, CHBME

Topics: Meaningful Use Stage 2, Practice Management, Medical Billing Company

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Especially in the increasingly value-based landscape of medical billing, boosting patient engagement levels is a priority of most modern medical practices. But even for those organizations that have yet to embrace the shift to quality over volume, patient engagement remains far more valuable from a financial perspective than most practices realize.

Why Patient Engagement Matters to Your Medical Practice

Given the growing infiltration of consumer-driven technology in healthcare – mobile devices, for example – doctors understand that connecting to existing patients using digital technologies can boost overall satisfaction. 

According to a study on patients and technology, there’s greater alignment on engagement than ever before: 

  • 76 percent of patients say technology has the potential to improve their health.
  • 84 percent of physicians believe patient engagement is beneficial.
  • Technologically engaged patients have 15 percent fewer hospital readmissions than their peers.
  • Those same engaged patients experienced 17 percent fewer medical errors.

Despite these trends, fee-for-service reimbursement concerns continue to dominate doctors’ mindsets regarding whether or not to invest in engagement-focused technologies. The same study found that 75 percent of physicians state that the lack of reimbursement is a barrier to using secure messaging, and 42 percent believe there is “insufficient payment for patient engagement” at large.

Viewed from a medical billing perspective, they’re correct. Beyond EHR incentives, ACO participation, and the potential payouts of MIPS and MACRA, doctors earn little direct monetary reward for investing in engagement-driving technologies. But there’s more to ROI than rewards, and the true reality of financial incentivizing is a little more nuanced.

Understanding the Link Between Patient Engagement and Insurance Reimbursements

Digital engagement may be an area where doctors and medical practice managers don’t expect a return on their financial investment, but it is a deep source of long-term ROI for more than just patient outcomes. In the aforementioned study, 76 percent of healthcare leaders surveyed saw positive ROI from personalization technologies, such as text messaging, email, mobile apps, and other digital engagement efforts.

The impacts are twofold. In a straightforward way, digital-first thinking is helpful to practices from a marketing perspective. By using online scheduling and improving their online presence, they can bring in as much as 20 percent more patients to their practices. Personalized appointment reminders reduce no-shows significantly, increasing per-physician revenue. High-touch engagement also makes it easier to follow up with patients when it comes to treatment adherence and future scheduling.

Then there’s the more intangible impact that engagement can have on reimbursement – an impact that stems from driving a stronger relationship between a medical establishment and its patient base.

Consider this: Nine of every ten patients wants to share decision-making with their provider, and two-thirds of patients would switch providers for access to medical records online. Among those groups, which kind of provider do you expect would be more likely to earn timely, in-full payments from loyal patients: a practice with a digital engagement strategy, or one that has refused to make the necessary technology investments?

Patient Engagement Strategies to Boost Your Reimbursement Rate

There are a few engagement strategies that can help practices to implement technology solutions more effectively to better serve patients and improve revenue cycle management in the long term.

Identify “Activated” Patients

Many practices evaluate how likely a patient is to be proactively involved in their care using the Patient Activation Measure (PAM), a 100-point scale based on answers to a number of survey questions. Patients who score high on the scale are more likely to understand the nature and cause of their condition as well as what their prescribed medications do and who they should contact for additional information. These patients are much more likely to embrace new digital engagement solutions.

Provide Education and Health Information

Putting information in the hands of patients can have tremendous results in terms of health outcomes. Well-informed patients are more likely to adhere to treatment protocols and avoid negative behaviors that could worsen their condition. A 2018 study found that even very limited educational and engagement efforts by clinicians can have a measurable impact on patient outcomes. Educating patients about the insurance reimbursement process and helping them to understand their financial obligations also clears up potential confusion and often eliminates the need for uncomfortable follow-ups.

Establish Communication Channels

Patients sometimes all but disappear following their appointments. Physicians may have a hard time knowing if they’re adhering to treatments, if their condition is improving, or if they’re developing new symptoms. By establishing technology channels like online patient portals, medication adherence apps, or text messaging platforms, practices can remove many of the traditional barriers associated with patient communication. 

Gather Feedback Whenever Possible

Gathering information about how patients feel about the level of care and service they’re receiving is essential to creating a better patient experience. Patient satisfaction surveys are especially helpful tools for identifying areas that need improvement and finding opportunities to better engage with patients. This not only helps to retain current patients, but also ensures that they’ll recommend the practice to others in the future.

Keep Your Focus on Engagement While Leaving the Medical Billing to a Trusted Partner

The key for doctors is to think beyond the immediate costs of investing in tech to the long-term benefits: Healthier, happier patients who are more likely to pay for services they truly value. Coupled with a smart approach to back-office operations, practices that invest in digital engagement can see improved bottom line outcomes over time.

By handing the billing and coding process over to a trusted medical billing partner, your practice can focus its efforts on making the healthcare experience as seamless as possible for your patients. NCG Medical has been helping practices implement technology solutions to improve their revenue cycle management for over 40 years. Our team of certified billing and coding experts can help your practice boost its clean claims and insurance reimbursements while helping you implement the best practices associated with patient engagement. 

To learn more about our medical billing services, contact our team today!



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