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Industry Insights

Price Transparency and Consumerism

Part Four - Patient Engagement Tips


Previous: Three - What You Want to Accomplish


Greg: So now that we've covered how to engage patients with consumer-facing estimation system, we should take a few minutes to review how to best maintain that engagement. Barb?

Barb: Thanks Greg, the primary trick is to make sure you reach out to patients in a combination of ways. We suggest mail, email, texting, phone message, videos, kiosks and more. Give them, your patients, the ability to respond in such a way that you begin to see their preferences, which will vary depending upon a set of criteria such as access to technology, ability to use technology, a reluctance to use technology, and the ability to understand.

This leaves us with the two most important factors for successful patient communication. The first being the comprehensiveness of the message, can your patients understand, can all your patients understand. And the second is the accessibility of the message, is it easy for various patients with various capabilities to get to your important information?

When we talk about patient communication, certainly a very broad topic, there are a multitude of considerations. You have patients with Ph.D’s, patients who can't read or can't read English, and everything in between. You also have a multitude of factors that can impede a patient's ability to understand. So if you try to reach patients with critical information such as pricing information, it is imperative to be creative, use graphics, variable fonts, and pictures and photos that are compelling, along with clear plain language, whether it's verbal or visual. When it's possible, please, combine both because that will be the most effective. Enrique, I believe there is one final poll question.

Enrique: Yes, thank you very much Barb, we'll pause for our last poll and second scheduled Q&A break now. First, I'll share the results of the last poll. As a reminder, that question was, please describe how you are currently providing pricing information on your hospital's website?

Poll Results 

48% said that there is no information online, 40% said that there's some but it's not personalized, 7% said full info, totally personalized, and 5% did not know. And now our final poll question, what is your biggest challenge in managing the accuracy of the estimate? Selecting the right procedure or service, selecting the right benefit information, or having the right payer contractual allowable. Again, that question is, what is your biggest challenge in managing the accuracy of the estimate? Right procedure or service, right benefit information, or right payer contractual allowable. So here is another pre-submitted question, how do we drive patients to the estimator once it's built?

Greg: So one of the things that we recommend is taking a two-fold approach, that would include working with your marketing department at your hospital. Your marketing team should have a process for what to refer to as search engine optimization. And so, they should have metadata tags on your website, and on specific pages, to help direct patients when they're doing Google searches, which is how most of us shop for things or when we're looking for information. You want it to go to the web page that's relevant for the patient and their specific question. So, your marketing team or whoever's hosting your website should be able to help you with that task.

The second piece is ensuring on your homepage that you have some clear, easy to find point of reference for generating or going to a price estimate or a price quote. That's typically going to be something that will be in a clearly defined box. And as Brad mentioned a moment ago, you would probably want to look at... you know, based upon your color schemes and your marketing department something that's probably orange, or as he noted red, would certainly gain more attention than say blue or green when you're trying to call that out as a place to go for a price estimate. Brad, anything you'd want to add in terms of finding that price estimate page?

Brad: Yeah, I think Greg, what you said about placement on the home page is really important. So one thing you could do is you could link it directly from your main home page navigation so that it's super easy to find. I think we've seen some examples where sometimes that can get buried further down the homepage, and it's difficult for people to find it. So just make sure that it's very easy to find directly from your homepage as soon as a patient hits your website.

Barb: And good news, bad news everybody is that the propensity for self-service is increasing on a daily basis. The good news about that is people will be looking to hopefully find your information online and do their own pricing. The bad news is people will be looking to do their own pricing, and if you're not there where they are, you could miss many opportunities.

Enrique: All right, thank you very much. And given the time situation, we'll pause it there. Reminder, we do have one final Q&A at the end of the presentation in just a few minutes. And with that, I will turn it back over to our speakers.

Brad: Yes, so really to summarize everything, when we start combining today's pricing reality with how digital everything is became today, we have to recognize that people want the ability to understand what healthcare procedure's going to cost them. To the patient, it's not the charge, it's not an average, and it's not just their copayment or their coinsurance, they want to know exactly how much it's going to cost them. And remember, 60% of us now want a digital option and will search online before looking to schedule an appointment. I mean, I don't call an airline company or call a hotel just to book a flight or room anymore, I do it online and I'm sure most of you do, too. So hospitals have to really start to embrace these improvements on their website and start providing the ability to generate an estimate online.

So it has to be easy to find, and it has to be easy to use. Keep in mind, I keep talking about that eight-second rule but that's so important. They have to be able to find it within eight seconds or they're going to move on. And then it has to be easy. If it's a hassle they'll go somewhere else, potentially your competitor, or when they do call you because you might still be their only option, the initial conversation will probably begin as a frustrated customer. And then finally, it has to be accurate. You have to accurately manage four key elements. The right location, the right insurance, the right procedure, and the right benefit coverage. And it's really our responsibility to do all of this as a health care provider so it's easy for our patients to do the right thing, which is schedule their procedure at your hospital.

Greg: You're absolutely right, Brad. We do have to make it easier, and a critical part of that is our responsibility to ensure accuracy of each estimate, or at least as accurate as possible. I think all health care providers today have some form of patient estimation system in place today. So regardless of whether it's an internal process that you've developed with spreadsheets as a reference point, or you're working with a third-party vendor, we have to hold ourselves accountable for accurate estimates and the processes that go along with that to support ongoing process improvement.

And as a part of that ongoing process improvement, we have to, as an industry, be willing to not just accept what we're going to be mandated to do, which could be nothing more than posting our charges, we're going to have to take it a step further, and really meet the patients where they are. And being willing to, again, hold ourselves accountable for estimates that are as accurate as possible.

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