NRC Health’s 2017 study revealed that seven in 10 consumers feel that they are now personally responsible for managing their health. A major factor behind this shift is cost, and consumers are investing plenty of money into the healthcare industry.
This is sparking a huge movement in the healthcare sphere known as “healthcare consumerism” — but what exactly does that mean and how can your practice keep pace with it?
What Is Healthcare Consumerism?
Broadly, the concept of “healthcare consumerism” represents the idea of patients behaving more like shoppers than ever before.
In order to be so discerning and cost-conscious about their care, patients are putting more proactive effort and research into their care options and associated costs. The increasing shift to a more consumer-driven healthcare space could have broad, wide-ranging consequences.
Healthcare consumerism also entails a massive transformation in how healthcare providers deliver, market, and charge for healthcare services. Today, patients can access much more detailed information about important factors such as a hospital’s complication and readmission rates and even online reviews from other patients.
Providers will need to focus on improving the patient experience, building their brands, and operating more like a retail business in a highly competitive market.
What Are the Causes of Healthcare Consumerism?
There are two primary causes for the exponential growth of healthcare consumerism:
High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) & Skyrocketing Premiums
Since 1999, insurance premiums have risen 213 percent for family coverage purchased through an employer. Even following so many years of increases, many patients’ deductibles, copays, and coinsurance amounts are predicted to continue to get higher in the years to come.
In terms of HDHPs and patients as payers, patients have increasingly been on the hook for a considerable bulk of their medical costs. Because of higher deductibles, patient financial responsibility has gone up. Per 2018 figures from TransUnion Healthcare, patient financial responsibility is up 11 percent since 2017.
Patients Being Cost-Conscious
Gone are the days when patients could embrace a given course of treatment with full confidence that their health insurance – employer-sponsored or individually purchased – will cover it.
In 2018, employer-insurance-covered workers contributed 18 percent of the cost for single coverage and 29 percent of the cost for family coverage, on average, with considerable variation across firms.
How Can Your Medical Practice Cater to Healthcare Consumers?
Here are five actions to take when considering the consumer’s evolving relationship with your practice:
Get Smarter About Collections
If patients are payers, then you should be just as diligent about getting patients to pay up as you are with insurers. Only 59 percent of physician practices report collecting from patients while they are in the office (and just 35 percent of hospitals collect at the point of service), yet 85 percent report collecting patient financial responsibility post-visit is “not a simple task.”
Before you start launching any other consumer-driven initiatives, make sure your administrative team and medical billing company are collecting every dollar owed to you by patients – ideally, at the time of the encounter itself.
Get Technologically Savvy
Patients who booked healthcare appointments ran three times more searches than those who didn’t, which means that enhancing your practice’s online options and overall digital presence is key to success in a patient-first landscape.
Virtual healthcare is likely already in your wheelhouse due to the effects of the pandemic, but it’s important to maintain telemedicine appointments in order to continue serving them. If possible, add a chat feature to your website that connects customers with members of your staff to answer quick questions.
Additionally, flesh out your practice’s digital appointment-booking options and make online medical records and payment options as accessible as possible.
Provide Price Transparency
Posting cost information online can make a big difference to patients, as well. Make the prices of any services you provide to non-insured patients readily available on your website, as well as inside your office.
While you’re at it, consider expanding the type and amount of retail options you deliver: Experts predict a more hybrid model of a healthcare organization — one that serves as both the doctor’s office and urgent care clinic — to see success in the years to come.
Deliver Patient Education Resources
Patient education resources are essential to a well-rounded practice because they help inform and empower the patient. When receiving literature from a trusted provider, the patient can learn more about their diagnosis, condition, treatment plan, and further their own understanding and use this information to do more research, if needed.
This can lead to a healthy dialogue between patient and provider, as the patient can ask more informed questions about their health and feel more empowered in their healthcare journey.
Such educational resources also serve a more practical purpose. For example, the more complex a patient’s problems are, the more likely that a couple of handouts can assist them in understanding and managing their conditions. Patient education resources aid with remembering the names and basic awareness of multiple factors, so the patient doesn’t need to worry about overloading their brain with memorizing everything the doctor says.
Partner With a Practice Management Firm
Turn to the experts at NCG Medical for medical billing, revenue cycle management, and more to streamline your practice and optimize your operations. Outsourcing your medical billing can tremendously improve your practice in terms of internal and external efficiency.
A medical billing firm can equip your practice with 24/7 reporting via analytics, for example, or can act as an in-house electronic health records (EHR) expert. In doing so, the outsourcing service can help ensure that incentive program adherence doesn’t drag your team’s time away from patients.
With NCG Medical, you’ll gain a team of experts in your corner who can help navigate the worlds of medical billing, healthcare software, and more! Contact us today to learn how we can make your practice more efficient, enable better patient access, and ensure you give the most effective care.