This year's edition of Futurescan from the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development features a chapter on consumerism in health care, which focuses on the role patient financial experiences play in consumers' overall satisfaction with healthcare systems. Here's what marketers need to know.
This is a critical area that should be considered as part of your marketing efforts, according to the senior vice president of healthcare financial practices at the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA).
The sometimes-confusing nature of healthcare billing and pricing can fuel frustration and result in negative impressions of hospitals and healthcare systems among consumers. A study published by PwC’s Health Research Institute in 2015 shows that 25 percent of patients in poor or fair health developed an unfavorable view of healthcare organizations as a result of their billing experiences.
“When the financial experience is a dissatisfier for consumers, it can affect their impression of the health system as a whole,” says Richard Gundling, FHFMA, CMA, senior vice president of healthcare financial practices at HFMA.
It’s no surprise then that healthcare systems are beginning to look for ways to improve the financial experience for patients—something this year’s edition of Futurescan covers in detail.
Futurescan is an annual assessment published by the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development in collaboration with the American College of Healthcare Executives. The publication found that 83 percent of surveyed healthcare executives believe their healthcare systems are somewhat or very likely to develop strategic goals for improving patient financial experience satisfaction by 2023.
Gundling authored an article for Futurescan titled “Consumerism in Healthcare: The Next Chapter” that focuses on the future of healthcare consumerism and ways to improve the financial experience for patients.
“Improving patients’ financial experience is a tremendous area of opportunity that is only just beginning to be recognized,” Gundling says.
Marketing’s Role in Patient Satisfaction
In his article, Gundling recommends that healthcare systems adopt patient-friendly billing practices, offer consumers guidance on payment options, and alert consumers to the need to check providers’ network status.
We asked Gundling how healthcare marketing departments can become part of these efforts, and here are his insights.
The importance of clear communication. “Messaging about the financial aspects of health care should not be relegated to fine print or complex, technical language. Ideally, information about billing, payment and financial assistance should have a similar consumer-friendly look and feel compared to other information the marketing department develops. This applies to web-based information as well as hard-copy materials.”
Gathering information from consumers. “It’s helpful for marketing leaders to see the financial experience through the patient’s eyes. Marketing departments can work with finance departments to incorporate questions about the financial experience into patient satisfaction surveys and other feedback mechanisms. Gathering baseline information regarding the financial experience will help the healthcare system set realistic goals in this area. Patient and family advisory councils are also a great source of feedback.”
Recommendations for Marketing
Gundling offered the following guidance for marketing campaigns.
Promote transparency. “Highlighting the availability of price and quality information is a true point of differentiation in the industry. Leading health systems are making price and quality information easily accessible, meaningful and transparent to patients. This helps build trust between patients and providers.”
Highlight shoppable service lines. “There is a natural fit between marketing campaigns and shoppable service lines. Patients can start planning for some of these shoppable services, such as childbirth and joint replacements, far in advance. It makes sense to include price and quality information in marketing campaigns for services like these.”
Gundling recognizes that technology will have a part to play in the future financial experience for healthcare consumers, but he believes that organizations must first build a solid foundation by improving transparency for patients.
“An aspirational goal would be having a single app that enables consumers to view their bills, adjust them for expected health plan coverage that factors in their real-time deductible status, and then pay their share from their health spending or other bank accounts,” Gundling says. “However, we’ll have to make a lot of progress on price transparency before we can get to that level.”
For free consumer educational resources on understanding healthcare prices and avoiding surprise medical bills, visit www.hfma.org/consumerguide.
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