It is safe to say that 2020 was a difficult year for a lot of people, financially and otherwise. When it comes to increased financial responsibility for healthcare, it was an especially difficult year for most patients. According to new research, the average consumer spent considerably more money on healthcare than they did only a few short years ago. This trend of increased financial burden on patients is likely going to continue in 2021 and will be further exacerbated by higher healthcare prices.
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In this blog, we will take a look at this shift toward greater patient financial responsibility and what this means for practices and providers.
Patients are Stuck with More of the Bill
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey that was conducted during the first half of 2020 (through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic) found that the year was marked by a significant upward trend in patient financial responsibility. Among other things, they found:
- Annual family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose 4 percent in 2020 and workers contributed $5,588 each toward the cost of family coverage.
- The cost of health insurance is still rising more quickly than wages and inflation.
- 83 percent of covered workers had a deductible in their plan, up from 70 percent only a decade ago.
This upward trend in patient responsibility is driving a surge in healthcare consumerism among patients, one in which they are conducting their own research to secure the lowest possible costs for themselves. TransUnion Healthcare's Second Annual Patient Survey found:
- Out-of-pocket expenses for outpatient visits in 2020 increased 6 percent from 2019.
- 49 percent of patients indicated that the state of the economy (which suffered due to the pandemic) had at least some impact on how they seek medical care.
- 80 percent of patients claimed they are now conducting some form of research on healthcare costs.
- In contrast to this, however, just over half (52 percent) of patients said they fully understood their financial responsibility when viewing recent medical bills.
Higher Healthcare Prices are Making it Worse
What turns this whole situation into a bit of a double-whammy for patients is the fact that, during a time when they are dealing with more responsibility for their healthcare costs, the price of that healthcare is also increasing. According to recently-conducted research from Altarum, overall healthcare prices were 2.5 percent higher in March 2021 than in March 2020, which is an above average increase. The average growth rate of healthcare prices over the first quarter of 2021 was 2.6 percent (which is also above the usual average). This means patients are being hit from both sides, having to pay out a larger portion of bigger pie.
The Good News: You Can Help
To ensure that your practice is able to support patients during this period of increased financial hardship in healthcare, there are a few helpful things you can be doing.
Practices should also be making efforts to provide better price transparency, as this will help patients with researching potential healthcare costs as well as increase feelings of trust between the patient and your practice. Next, by offering financing, flexible payment plans and similar initiatives you will help foster patient loyalty while easing the financial burden on them without a loss of revenue for your practice. Lastly, simplifying the payment experience for patients by leveraging solutions such as a patient portal and integrated payments will not only provide a better user experience but help encourage patients to make payments promptly.
To learn how Nextech’s healthcare technology solutions can help your practice improve the patient care and payment experience, fill out this form and a member of our team will be in touch soon!