Needless to say, healthcare has seen several drastic changes over the last year or so. A need for more contactless office procedures. A sharp rise in the use of telemedicine. A surge in digital payments. A crackdown on Information Blocking violations. However, another change in the last year that has not received nearly as much attention is increased financial responsibility for patients. And this economic trend has made patient portals more crucial than ever.
This blog will examine how a portal can help practices support this new trend while reducing overhead costs and minimizing unnecessary work for your staff.
The Upward Trend in Patient Financial Responsibility
In 2020, the average consumer spent considerably more on healthcare than they did in 2016. According to a survey (conducted from January 2020 to July 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic) published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, on average, workers contributed $5,588 toward the cost of family coverage. In addition to premium increases, they also found 83 percent of covered workers had a deductible in their plan, up from 70 percent a decade ago. The average single deductible stands at $1,644 for workers who have one, similar to the amount reported last year but up sharply from $917 a decade ago. This marks a 111 percent increase in combined average out-of-pocket expenses incurred by workers under private insurance. Almost all workers have plans with an out-of-pocket maximum on in-network cost, but limits vary widely. 11 percent of covered workers reported their plans had maximums of less than $2,000 and 18 percent reported maximums of $6,000 or higher.
The CDC examined the enrollment rate of adults aged 18-64 in high deductible health plans in 2017. They found an increase in enrollment in HDHPs with health savings accounts from 2007 to 2017, up from 4.2 percent to 18.9 percent, and HDHPs without an HSA up from 10.6 percent to 24.5 percent. The increases in enrollment in high-deductible plans, coupled with those deductibles continuing to rise, means an ever-growing amount of healthcare costs being paid out-of-pocket by patients.
HealthcareFinanceNews.com reports that during the pandemic, TransUnion Healthcare's second annual patient survey found that 59 percent of patients deferred non-coronavirus-related medical care from March to September in 2020. 49 percent of patients indicated that the state of the economy had at least some impact on how they seek medical care. They also report that out-of-pocket expenses in 2020 for outpatient visits increased 6 percent from 2019.
What this all means is an increase in healthcare consumerism. Younger generations are spearheading this trend, focused heavily on lowering their expenses. 90 percent of Gen Z respondents and 87 percent of Millennial respondents reported they do research when making healthcare decisions, compared to just 69 percent of Baby Boomers.
Using a Portal to Support the Trend
This trend in consumerism means supporting ways for patients to make payments conveniently is steadily growing in importance and has a significant impact on your bottom line. This is where the patient portal can help. A 2016 study cited in an article by HealthcareFinanceNews.com has been used over the past five years to promote the business case for portal adoption. In that study, they confirmed some very positive statistics promoting portal use for the purposes of collections. Of note, responding practices reported an 8 percent improvement in average patient pay yield after implementing their patient portal. In addition, patient accounts receivable improved 16 percent (from an average of 83 days pre-portal-implementation to an average of 70 days post-implementation). Finally, the most telling statistic was a 21 percent reduction in patient accounts sent to collections.
Chris Lah, Senior Director of Revenue Cycle for Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, did a presentation at HIMSS16 where he noted that, after implementing a consumer-friendly patient portal, his organization increased patient satisfaction scores by 66 percent. They also increased collections from 10 percent to 15 percent, saved $70,000 a year by replacing phone communications with digital/self-service options and increased online portal adoption from 900 patients to over 35,000.
Fast forward to 2020, when digitalcommerce360.com reported consumers spent $861.12 billion online with U.S. merchants. A whopping 44 percent year-over-year increase from 2019, marking the most significant growth in online spending ever recorded. For perspective, the next highest jump was from 2018 to 2019, which was only 15 percent. COVID-19-related boosts in online shopping resulted in an additional $174.87 billion in e-commerce revenue in 2020.
Becker's Hospital Review reports that, prior to the pandemic, consumers were already highly receptive to digital changes. They cite a 2020 Healthcare Payments Insight Survey Report by Elavon where it was concluded that consumers who used new online and digital payment methods all showed high satisfaction rates. 66 percent of those consumers were registered on at least one patient portal. The survey indicates that offering even more features on the portal increases the frequency of use even higher.
Check out our infographic on Why Patient Portals Matter
Portals for Reduced Overhead & Workload
Patient portal adoption can help reduce your overhead costs as well as your staff's workload. In the article mentioned above by Healthcare Finance News, a pediatric practice based in Orlando, Florida, credits their patient portal for helping them triple in size over a two and a half year period while keeping their staff cost increase to only 20 percent.
According to a KLAS research survey, nearly 60 percent of respondents reported an integrated digital patient intake management solution helped their practice increase efficiency, focus more on the patient experience and reduce overhead with more straightforward processing of patient questionnaires and patient check-in management. Other features—such as secure messaging, online appointment booking and remote check-in—help minimize the burden on front-office staff, freeing them up to provide more attentive service to patients. These features also replace some of the call volume coming into the practice, allowing one staff member to interact with multiple patients simultaneously, rather than placing them on hold or potentially interrupting a face-to-face conversation with a patient in the office.
To discover how Nextech's myPatientVisit portal can reduce costs and increase efficiency for your practice, fill out this form and we will be in touch soon!