Over the past several years, “big data” has become an even bigger topic in our healthcare world. What has historically been a paper-based, analog industry now has access to large amounts of digital data.  Hospitals and health systems have digitized clinical and financial records, and pharmaceutical companies have created medical databases full of research and data. The information is vast, and it continues to expand. At our current rate of growth, big data for U.S. healthcare will soon reach the zettabyte (1021 gigabytes), followed quickly by the yottabyte (1024 gigabytes).
Big data can influence every stage of the care continuum, from admissions to billing. In fact, many organizations are already looking at key insights and how to adjust their payment strategies based on the data. However, they may be overlooking smaller wins that can yield impactful results.
Health data has traditionally focused predominantly on retrospective analysis, but as data evolves, so do the opportunities to put data to good use to optimize operations. Predictive modeling is one way to analyze the information at hand. With predictive modeling, it’s easier to identify small changes in the patient payment process that can make a big difference in increasing future revenue. Health systems can run and measure “micro experiments,” testing adjustments to the payment process and pinpointing patient behavior triggers. Using past patient payments, health systems can uncover hidden financial opportunities to improve patient collection rates.
Here are the top 3 quick wins that health systems could adjust to improve future patient revenue:
1. Patient portal & payment platforms:
Patients have varying payment preferences and differing financial circumstances, so it’s important to offer multiple payment options. This is nothing new. But now let’s take a closer look at the patient journey when they pay online. Where is the payment button located in your patient portal – in the top right corner? At the bottom of the page? Somewhere in between? Something as seemingly insignificant as the placement of a button or even the color can affect collection rates. For instance, our company has observed a double digit percentage increase as a result of ongoing testing and updating the user payment experience, including portal color, process flows, button placement and more. Now apply that thinking to your print billing statements, ebills and pay-by-phone process.
2. Payment prompt timing:
Just as it’s important to offer patients many ways to pay, health systems should be able to communicate outstanding balances across email, phone, text message or US mail. Instead of focusing on the high-level trend of the communication vehicle itself, consider the timing. For example, your patients may be more likely to check their text messages around lunchtime. Studies also show that while more emails are opened in the morning, the highest click-through rate actually occurs in the evening or overnight – from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m.  While it may go against our instincts to send emails late at night, experimenting with send-times may improve your online payment rates in unexpected ways.
3. Payment plan options:
Research shows that the percent of patients who choose a long-term payment option vs pay in full is highly affected by charge amount. Many patients who cannot pay in full will commit to a monthly plan, if offered and tailored to their unique financial needs. By tweaking payment plan options for various patient segments, health systems can collect more patient payments and improve plan adherence.
Revenue cycle leaders may wait months to determine whether adjustments to their billing strategy are effective. With predictive modeling and “micro experiments,” leaders can test these strategies in near real time. This makes it easier to identify impact and optimize accordingly. The resulting payments can predict future revenue and dictate better processes and a better patient experience.
With the industry so focused on “big data,” it’s easy to overlook small—but important—wins. Predictive modeling gives hospitals and health systems the ability to hone in on micro-trends to uncover hidden financial opportunities.
There is no silver bullet when it comes to patient payment collection. But when you combine all the little nuances that influence patient behaviors, you can make a big impact on patient collections while creating a better patient experience.