COVID-19 and Its Lasting Effect on Patient Engagement
2020 WAS A YEAR OF UNEXPECTED DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT THAT NO ONE COULD FORESEE. THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HIT AND IMMEDIATELY CHANGED THE WAY THAT WE CONNECTED WITH FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND THE ENTIRE WORLD. DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION CATAPULTED FORWARD AT AN UNIMAGINABLE RATE. SOLUTIONS WERE BUILT OUT OF NECESSITY AND THE WORLD WAS CHANGED.
END RESULT…A MUCH MORE DIGITALLY CAPABLE SOCIETY …AND WE AREN’T GOING BACK.
First, let us take a look at factors that had begun to shape patient engagement prior to COVID. The initial adaptation and eventual finalization of the Affordable Care Act had already begun to heavily emphasize patient satisfaction. Subsequently, companies that were historically non- healthcare began to enter the healthcare market. Their focus was healthcare delivery and any highly profitable procedures performed by traditional providers. The result was “consumerism” in healthcare. Providers were forced to provide patients/consumers with an experience, not just healthcare. Just prior to COVID, providers were mandated to provide price transparency to their patients as well as their competitors as a market-driven strategy to reduce healthcare costs. Providers had begun to invest heavily in digital delivery of information to their patients.
During COVID Pandemic
As COVID began, most providers sped up their digital engagement across all of their existing platforms while placing the most emphasis on patient communications through email, texts, and social media. Hospital administrators and physicians used video to communicate community updates and to educate the public about COVID-19. Telehealth was deployed to minimize exposure while delivering healthcare to the non-emergent. Suddenly patients who had traditionally not been comfortable with digital communication were being forced to adapt. Seniors citizens, along with others, learned to visit with their families using web products such as Zoom, Facetime, and Google Meet. Americans became more confident in using credit and debit cards online as they ordered groceries, prescriptions, and other goods to be delivered. As patients have become more familiar with digital options, hospitals will be forced to continue or escalate their digital patient experience.
While it seems that COVID will be here for a while, vaccines and learning how to live with the virus will slowly allow patients and healthcare to normalize. Normal as we once knew it will be replaced with new protocols and new ways that providers must adapt to the patient’s needs and desires. So, what does post pandemic patient engagement look like? Providers will be forced to utilize multi-channel communication for their patients.
Statements (Paper and Electronic)
Traditional paper statements are here to stay but at a declining number. “Go Green” initiatives and the adaptation of digital platforms will decrease the number of statements mailed. Mailing statements increases the time to collect. With ever increasing delivery times, a patient may not receive their statement for up to 14 days. During 2020, the USPS on time delivery rates decreased drastically for first class mail due to increased package delivery and workforce shortages associated with COVID. In some markets, the on-time delivery percentage fell below 50%. Electronic delivery via email or SMS text delivers the patient’s financial obligations within minutes.
“USPS average on time delivery fell just over 5% nationally in 2020 as compared to 2019 but in certain markets, on time delivery fell to <40% due to COVID related employee absences.“
U.S. GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE
Another aspect of statements is combining ambulatory and acute charges per guarantor. Patients receiving one statement with all open account information greatly reduces confusion, thus allowing them to better understand what they owe. Sufficient details on the statement should be included to identify and recall each event. Additionally, this will be a first step in addressing proposed surprise billing requirements.
Majority of consumers want digital payment options for healthcare.
2021 collaborative study conducted by Pymnts.com and Rectangle Health
24/7 Payment Opportunities
Gone are the days of waiting until the business office opens. Patients’ busy lifestyles dictate the need to be able to pay their bill any time day or night. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) will continue to be utilized but will for the most part give way to robust pay sites. In a recent collaborative study conducted by Pymnts.com and Rectangle Health, 56% of consumers expressed interest in the “care now, pay later model”. Providers will increasingly adapt this plan and allow patients to establish their own custom pay plan within pre-set guidelines. For success, pay sites should show patients all of their open and previous accounts in one place while providing access to the statements associated with each visit. Providing as much information as possible will increase the chance the patient is confident enough to pay the bill. Embedded chat to address frequently asked questions or specific information provided by an agent can help patients manage their accounts. Other industries such as travel and retail already offer consumers the opportunity to spread out their payments but incorporate interest or a fee to do so.
Texting will continue to grow in popularity throughout all areas of healthcare due to almost immediate open rates. From Patient Access (appointment reminders, copay/deductible communication, “hold my place in line” in registration areas, and notification that your provider is ready to begin your appointment) to Revenue Cycle (view electronic statement notices, communication of financial obligation, requests for C.O.B information). A growing concern for hospitals is how many texts patients might receive during their experience. All are advised to offer an “opt out” to patients who feel they are receiving too many texts.
Companies in many different industries are now offering Live Chat to their customers. This will continue to grow in healthcare with the post COVID digital adaptation. Patients are embracing Live Chat as a way to multi-task and receive information without as much perceived intrusion. From the provider standpoint, an efficient Chat offering can reduce the amount of Customer Service calls drastically.
Everything we do centers around revenue acceleration and positive patient experience. Want to learn more? Let MedCo help ensure your patient’s satisfaction! Call 1-844-528-4338 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today for additional information.