Patient satisfaction is an important goal for providers for reasons going way beyond a desire to be kind humans. It’s the first part of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Triple Aim.[i] Better patient satisfaction has been associated with better medical outcomes and with reduced readmissions.[ii] Patient satisfaction scores influence reimbursement, both for the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) and value-based care. And, in an era of competition for patients from non-traditional healthcare outlets, ensuring patient satisfaction is an important way to protect patient relationships and future revenue opportunities.
Ways to achieve better patient interaction are not closely-held secrets. Lists of helpful tips may be found in abundance in collections of 5 or 10 or even 30 top ways to improve patient satisfaction. Boiled down to the most common theme, though, it’s all about Communication, Communication, Communication.
The characteristics of good communication-- listening patiently and respectfully, making eye contact, answering questions fully, expressing empathy –belong in both the clinical and in the financial environment.
Communicating Patient Financial Responsibility
The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) published a comprehensive guide to patient financial communications in 2016 which remains a valuable resource on the topic. The guide was developed in partnership with experts including representatives of patients, hospitals, and physicians, advised by national policymakers including Sen. Tom Daschle, Sen. Bill Frist, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and others. Its goal is to bring “consistency, clarity, and transparency” to patient financial communications with best practices for Emergency Department (ED), time of service (outside the ED), and advance of service settings.
One best practice identified for all settings is, “Providers should have technology that gives financial representatives up-to-date information about patient balances and financial obligations.”
Patients today are frequently, and understandably, anxious about the debt they may incur for diagnosis and treatment. Twenty-five percent of Americans, according to Gallup, name cost as the most urgent health problem facing the U.S. Forty-five percent of Americans fear a major health event will leave them bankrupt.
Clear, credible, compassionate communication, then, about a patient’s financial obligation is essential to caring for patients in a way that will foster satisfaction and result in better outcomes.
Fortunately, the technology to give patient access or financial representatives up-to-date estimates of a patient’s out-of-pocket responsibility is available and easy to use.
In the Quadax Patient Access Management suite, the Out-of-Pocket Estimation tool is a contracts-based estimation engine able to produce an individual professional or technical estimate or a combined estimate. The engine analyzes the provider’s negotiated contractual stipulations, chargemaster, historical procedural information, and patient-specific, year-to-date benefit data to arrive at the best estimate of a patient’s financial responsibility possible prior to the current procedure. Auto-add technology includes related procedure codes—additional procedures found to generally be done in conjunction with the primary procedure—for a more realistic estimate to eliminate surprises down the line.
Patient Access representatives using the Quadax Out-of-Pocket Estimation tool are guided through the process of generating the estimate and talking with the patient about the document. Through this open communication, a patient is better equipped to make care decisions and financial plans, and is more likely to express satisfaction about the financial communication experience with their healthcare provider.
Are you ready to learn more about the role an easy-to-use Out-of-Pocket Estimation tool can play in your mission to provide care to your patient population? Click here to request a no-obligation consultation.
Fostering high patient satisfaction is one way of thriving in an environment of increased competition for patient-consumers. A recent Definitive Healthcare survey of important trends identified consumerism as the second most important topic causing apprehension for healthcare providers. If the rise of consumerism in healthcare today has you concerned about the implications for your practice and for your patients, request our latest White Paper, Healthcare Consumerism & Your Revenue Cycle: Flip the narrative and build loyalty through patient-centric tools and processes. Request your complimentary copy here.
[ii] Jacob Imber, MD, “Lower rates of patient satisfaction may predict readmission,” The Hospitalist, May 23, 2019, https://www.the-hospitalist.org/hospitalist/article/201061/mixed-topics