The future of patient access: digital front door

Experian Health products referenced in this blog post:

Patient Engagement Solutions
Patient Scheduling
Precise ID
Patient Payment Estimates
Patient Payment Solutions

To access more insights and trends, download the entire white paper: 

The State of Patient Access: 2021

How has the pandemic affected consumer attitudes toward patient access? What kind of digital experience do consumers expect from their healthcare provider in 2021? Are patients and providers on the same page when it comes to self-service in the healthcare journey? Providers must answer these questions if they are to improve their digital front door, boost patient loyalty and withstand the financial impact of COVID-19.

While we know that a satisfying patient access experience translates to a stronger revenue cycle, change can feel risky without knowing what consumers really want. Experian Health surveyed hundreds of healthcare consumers and providers to find out what each expects from patient access in 2021, and uncovered opportunities for providers to lay the groundwork for future financial success.

Survey findings: 4 revenue-boosting opportunities for patient access in 2021

1. More control and convenience for consumers

Nearly eight in ten consumer survey respondents want to be able to schedule their own appointments, at any time of day or night, from their home or mobile device. They can already order groceries and view their bank accounts this way – and they want the same level of control and convenience when managing the non-clinical aspects of their healthcare.

Digital patient engagement solutions allow providers to offer consumers the flexibility and accessibility they crave. Patients can schedule appointments online, complete registration from home and pay bills from a mobile device. Convenience also delivers health benefits: no-shows are less likely, and patients find it easier to adhere to care plans. And while COVID-19 remains a concern, self-service options minimize face-to-face contact, keeping staff and patients safe.

Automating patient access even contributes to better collection rates, for example, by reducing errors that can lead to denied claims.

2. But don’t deliver convenience at the expense of safety and security

Patients want convenience, but they also want their data to be kept safe. More than half of consumers surveyed, particularly the younger age groups, say they worry about security when accessing their personal details online.

Security can be challenging for providers: they need multi-layered solutions that can adapt to security threats that evolve with ever-increasing complexity, without creating cumbersome log-in processes for patients. But with the right technology, providers can  safeguard patient data with confidence.

Experian Health’s patient portal security tools use leading-edge identity proofing, risk-based authentication and knowledge-based questions to reliably verify patient identities. Patients can book appointments, register for care or view their health information. Calls to IT support are likely to drop too, saving staff and patients valuable time.

3. Contactless care requirements are driving long term, systemic change

While many of these changes were already simmering in the background, the pandemic has turned up the heat and accelerated the need for contactless care. Will this be a long-term trend? Both patients and providers believe self-service technology is here to stay and seven in ten providers surveyed say they don’t expect patients to feel comfortable in waiting rooms until at least summer 2021. While face-to-face care will always be important, it seems likely that a digital front door will become the default to make the non-clinical portion of the healthcare journey easier and quicker for everyone.

“As providers expand the use of patient portals, there is a huge opportunity to demonstrate the true value of virtual care – and transform healthcare for the long-term.”
– Tom Cox, general manager, head of product, Experian Health

4. The financial conversation between consumers and providers must be based on trust, transparency and empathy

When the final bill bears no resemblance to initial estimates, patients feel frustrated and misled. With deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses on the rise, patients are demanding simple and clear pricing information so they can plan accordingly. Providers that offer consumers transparency, understanding, control and convenience when managing their financial responsibilities are going to have the competitive edge.

Providers can achieve this with clear, upfront and accurate pricing estimates to help patients understand their financial obligations before their visit. Next, support to check coverage and advice on tailored payment plans will provide patients with as many tools as possible as they plan to meet those obligations. Experian Health’s Patient Payment Solutions can check for patient coverage, identify a payment plan(s) that suits a patient’s individual situation, and then make it easy to pay via a mobile device.

Future provider revenue hinges on investment in digital healthcare. A welcoming, convenient and secure digital front door translates to patient loyalty, which in turn can mitigate losses in challenging times. Wherever are in digital patient access journey, there’s an opportunity to improve the experience for patients and build a revenue cycle that not only survives the tumult of the pandemic, but also thrives in the years ahead.

Learn more.

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COVID-19 vaccine distribution: 4 ways providers can win with online self-scheduling

It’s been almost an entire year since COVID-19 changed life as we know it. The good news? A vaccine has finally arrived and is currently making its way to distribution sites across the United States—a significant milestone as the nation has seen more than 16 million cases to date, and more that 300,000 deaths.

Because of the current supply, the Centers for Disease Control are recommending healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities receive the vaccine first. Supply is expected to increase in the weeks and months to come, however, and the goal is for everyone to have access to a vaccine by the second quarter of 2021.

As healthcare organizations across the country prepare to meet the vaccine demand, it is expected the logistics and distribution management will add pressure to staff and services already under stress. The challenge: administer the vaccine as efficiently and safely as possible.

Online patient scheduling has already been a game changer during the pandemic, but its potential as a traffic management tool to address the influx of vaccine appointment requests is even greater—and not just for patients. In the early stages of deployment, online self-scheduling can be a game changer for healthcare workers and other essential employees looking to schedule and receive the vaccine.

Here are four ways providers can leverage online patient self-scheduling for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine:

Designate day and time slots specifically for administering vaccines

By incorporating providers’ scheduling rules into the scheduling process, there is the opportunity to designate specific day and time slots for administering the vaccine.

It not only makes it easy for patients to schedule, but it additionally allows both patients and providers to further minimize the risk of unnecessary contact with others in the office.

Create screening questionnaires during patient scheduling

As more patients go on-site for the vaccine, they must be routed to the most appropriate care source and location. This will prevent unnecessary traffic and bottlenecks in the office, while ensuring the safety of individuals.

As soon as a patient begins to book a vaccine appointment a few short questions about their symptoms and reason for booking can be presented. A screening questionnaire like this can triage people wanting to get a vaccine or get tested, and help identify potential COVID-19 positive individuals, and if that individual needs to quarantine prior to coming in for the vaccine. After screening, the system can direct patients through the correct channel of care.

Screening questionnaires can also be used to determine if a patient is eligible for the vaccine given the current status of vaccine deployment. Older patients may be given priority whereas younger patients may be told to schedule at a later date.

A system like this can also reduce pressure on call center staff and give providers control over the volume and timing of in-person appointments, thus helping to reduce patient and staff exposure to any contagion.

Make it as easy as possible for patients to schedule both doses

Most of the early COVID-19 vaccines will require shots to be effective, with the second dose being administered 21 to 28 days after the first. It’s critical that the second does is administered in a timely manner. There are a few ways to encourage patients to return.

First, providers can help patients book their follow-up appointment in the office before leaving.

Second, providers can leverage automated outreach as a method to contact and remind patients to book a follow-up. Experian Health’s Patient Outreach Solutions have been purpose built to meet this need, sending outreach campaigns to individuals enabling them to self-schedule needed care conveniently, right from a text or voice message.

Automated outreach would allow providers to reach out to specific subsets of patients that may require or benefit from the vaccine early on, like older individuals or those with chronic conditions. With it, providers have the ability to reach out to hundreds, even thousands of patients without manual call center workload – something that will come in handy as now the majority of Americans plan to get vaccinated for the coronavirus.

Improve the efficiency of drive-through vaccination programs

For those providers considering drive-through vaccinations (similar to drive-through COVID testing), online scheduling makes a huge difference—not only for booking an appointment, but for preventing bottlenecks as patients arrive. Detailed information such as the patient’s vehicle model, color and license plate number can all be recorded ahead of time during the screening process, allowing providers to quickly identify patients as they arrive.

Learn more about the benefits of digital scheduling and how Experian Health can help your organization navigate the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Seniors navigating healthcare technology in a post-COVID world

Products referenced in this article:

With just a few clicks, patients can book appointments, speak to their doctor, access billing information and pay for care, all without leaving their homes. Online health services have been a lifesaver for many during the pandemic, and the reliance on digital tools has sky-rocketed over the last few months. But for some older consumers who may be less comfortable using digital devices, this shift towards “healthcare from home” feels daunting and isolating.

Many seniors are not immersed in the digital culture and navigate life just fine without a touchscreen. The sudden shift in healthcare delivery channels has demanded many to venture into unfamiliar technology in a rushed and urgent manner. Others face barriers related to things like dementia, hearing loss and vision loss.

Closing the digital divide

Whatever their age, those left out of the digital loop face a higher risk of missed appointments, delayed care and anxiety about how to get tests and treatment. Providers will want to ensure that all of their digital offerings are designed to help patients of every age access care in a way that works for them. That means creating a consumer experience with pathways and channels to suit different patient needs and expectations, including “analog” options for those who aren’t inclined to learn new technologies.

4 ways to make digital health technology more senior-friendly

1. Use data to determine what’s working and what’s not

The starting point for providers who want to improve seniors’ digital engagement is to understand how they’re actually using it (or not) right now. Non-clinical data can give insights on technology engagement, lifestyle and socioeconomic circumstances across all ages in a patient population. When providers know what patients are looking for, and where the gaps are, they can tailor their services to meet their patients’ needs.

For example, let’s say a proportion of an organization’s older members have smartphones or tablets, but aren’t using them to access their patient portals. It’s likely they have the skills so but may not be aware of the service. This can be solved with a simple omnichannel outreach campaign to provide step-by-step instructions explaining how to get started.

One way for providers to capture useful data is with “Z codes” — the ICD-10-CM codes included in categories Z55-Z65. These identify non-medical factors that may influence a patient’s health status. Utilizing Z codes will enable better tracking of seniors’ needs and identify solutions to improve their health and wellbeing.

Providers can also leverage data to better understand seniors’ activity in the continuum of care. Are older patients continually presenting for care at a facility that is out of network? A tool like MemberMatch can deliver these insights in real time, alerting care teams as early as possible so that they can rally around active episodes of care proactively and efficiently. This helps risk-bearing organizations optimize the quality and cost of member activity in the continuum of care, leading to better outcomes for patients and a better bottom line for organizations responsible for their health.

2. Give patients choices about how they access services

Adoption of healthcare technology is increasing among older adults: 76% of over 50 say they welcome services to help them “age in place”, or live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level. At CareMount Medical, 27% of primary care appointments made using Experian Health’s online scheduling tool are initiated by those aged 60 and over. The demand is there; support should follow.

That said, an omnichannel approach is still important. Given a choice, more than half of people aged 50 and over prefer their health be managed by a mix of medical professionals and technology. This means giving patients the option to easily schedule appointments by phone. Automated outreach and integration, combined with practice management systems, will ultimately make patient scheduling easier.

3. Make virtual care easier to use

More than half of seniors cancelled or delayed appointments due to COVID-19. Despite the promise of safety measures, many are hesitant to return. Virtual care may be the answer.

Providers are quick to learn that telehealth is not a panacea, in particular for the senior population. As some patients may not have the technology and skills to access telehealth, providers may want to consider a hybrid “facilitated telehealth” model where medical professionals visit patients’ homes to help them get set up for telehealth visits.

4. Create a smoother patient financial experience

As older patients become newly eligible for Medicare, many are unclear about their coverage status. To take the burden off the patient, providers should consider a tool such as Coverage Discovery, which allows staff to find MBI numbers quickly. This often proves helpful, particularly for new Medicare beneficiaries who may not have received their MBI card yet.

A way to ease the stress of payments is to offer more transparent pricing so patients know what to expect as they start their healthcare journey. Experian Health’s Patient Financial Advisor gives a breakdown of their bill and payment options, helping them feel financially confident and more in control of their ability to pay – resulting in fewer collections issues.

As older patients become more accustomed to paying for other everyday items through their smartphones or laptops, online patient payment solutions will become less foreign and more convenient, allowing them to manage medical payments in a time and place that suits them.

It’s never been more important to help older patients stay connected, access care and feel supported during their healthcare journey. Contact us to explore how Experian Health’s solutions can help you close the digital divide.

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