By: Josh Byrd
We live in the age of the consumer. Consumers are highly discerning, and they demand a positive experience with every brand interaction. A recent Forrester Research report revealed that customers’ willingness to pay for a product increases by 14.4 percent simply by focusing on customer experience. Consequently, leading businesses are investing substantial capital into user experience (UX) improvements.
Though these trends are not exclusive to healthcare, the finding from Forrester Research leaves significant implications in its wake. As patients are taking on more personal financial responsibility for their healthcare, they increasingly fall into the category of “patient consumers.” That means providers must carefully manage the patient financial experience to improve consumer satisfaction and by extension, collect more patient dollars.
Ask any UX expert, and they’ll tell you the user experience must constantly evolve to meet consumer preferences. Yet the most important rule of all goes beyond preferences. For optimal results, the experience must be designed to accommodate behaviors.
Do patients mean what they say?
Many healthcare organizations today have the ability to ask patients for their communication and billing preferences. This is a great start, but it’s important to understand the distinction between expressed and implied preferences based on behavior.
When patients opt into e-billing, for example, most hospitals and health systems remove them entirely from their mailed statement queue. But what happens to the patients who never actually open their e-bills? These patients’ behavior implies they really don’t actually prefer to engage through e-bills. Their expressed preference — “please send me e-bills” — does not match their behavior, or implied preference.
By monitoring for open rates and engagement, healthcare organizations can close the loop on the payment process by tailoring it to the patient’s actions. In many cases, this means moving the patient back to mailed statements. In fact, one health system that kept tabs on e-bill open rates realized more than $3 million in payments that otherwise would have been missed by patients who had opted into paperless billing. If the organization had not followed up on all those unopened emails with mailed statements, many of the patients would have never made payment.
The lesson learned: It’s crucial for hospitals to leverage technology that can accommodate expressed preferences but automatically adapt to implied preferences to maximize payments.
Capitalize on behavioral trends
While personalization is key, the user experience can also be modified to reflect broader trends in behavior. For example, analysis of open rates across a larger dataset can give insights on the best timing of email and text message outreach. Are your patients more likely to open an email at night, or first thing in the morning? Are patients more likely to respond to a text message on a Monday or a Friday? The answers are in the data.
Analyzing patient behaviors will help inform future decisions and payment strategies, and the data isn’t limited to outreach timing. There are hundreds of nuances that can make incremental improvements in patient behavior. Something as simple as the message or placement of a “pay now” button can trigger different actions – or inactions – making meaningful differences in financial outcome.
Monitor and adapt
The highest performing healthcare organizations routinely conduct user testing to guide their billing and payment strategy. As such, their payment technology should be dynamic and responsive to those insights. As consumer behavior becomes central to your patient financial experience, the user experience should adapt for each patient. Tailored messaging, personalized financing options and plan enrollment processes can all be adapted to fit real patient behaviors.
When it comes to UX and patient payments, behavior should be the primary strategy driver. Behavior-based payment experiences meet patients where they are, and they position healthcare leaders for financial success in the age of the patient consumer.