September 29, 2022

Patient deductibles are likely to continue rising in coming years, and healthcare providers will have to implement strategies to continue providing patients with the best possible care.

Healthcare patient deductibles continue to skyrocket. Research shows that 53% of American workers had high-deductible health plans in 2020, a 34% jump from 2015. Over the past decade, the average deductible rose from $991 to $1,669. Rising healthcare deductibles are increasing out-of-pocket costs and putting financial pressure on patients trying to make important medical decisions. The impact of high-deductible healthcare is not going away anytime soon.

It’s time to understand what can be done to counter these costs while providing compassionate care for patients and properly compensating physicians.

The True Cost of High Deductible Healthcare

Patients with high-deductible healthcare are more likely to decline a medical procedure due to cost. This is troubling because patients could be holding off on necessary medical care or even emergency services because of high prices.

Patients might also eschew preventive care, leading to bigger problems down the road. Higher healthcare deductibles can lead to more emergency room visits as providers don’t discover patients’ problems until they become life-threatening.

Patients’ difficulty paying for procedures also leads to healthcare providers carrying more bad debt. If providers lack efficient revenue cycle management, then over time, practices could ultimately run out of liquidity and be forced to change their business focus to debt collections instead of innovating and providing care. This dynamic has caused many providers to change to an upfront payment model to mitigate risk and create greater transparency for patients.

The modern medical practice has become more dependent on upfront patient payments just to perform basic business processes like forecasting. It’s a completely new paradigm in medical billing that only emerged in the past five years as rising healthcare deductibles created a snowball effect on providers’ bottom lines.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. An innovative mix of revenue cycle tools and patient bill care solutions can enhance the financial experience for providers and patients.

Relieving the Financial Pressure

Fortunately, there are proven processes and progressive technologies to alleviate external forces impacting the financial experience and help provide patients with the best possible care. Foremost is the availability of omnichannel patient payment and communications options. Successful retailers empower patients to make payments the way they choose, enabling payment at the time of service with smart cards or digital wallets or at patients’ convenience with text, email, or secure patient portals.

It’s natural for patients to relate their medical and financial experiences with their providers. Showing empathy in both clinical and bill care is key to overall patient satisfaction. Using authentic, empathetic language to communicate via text, email, or phone and implementing as many payment plans and avenues as possible can remove friction. It’s also a great idea to empower phone reps to act as patient advocates to ensure patients’ voices are heard and needs are met.

When implemented correctly, this empathetic omnichannel method to interact and engage with patients will enable better patient experiences overall. Providers could also see higher collections rates through payment plans, collecting before bills become debt.

When paired with optimized revenue cycle techniques, patient responsibility can be drastically reduced or even eliminated. Finding the right partner that specializes in patient-first billing paired with effective revenue cycle management can help providers optimize their business operations and support the overall patient experience.

High-deductible health plans can cause patients to ignore routine and preventive care, causing major health concerns down the road. Addressing the issue with efficient and compassionate billing solutions can make a big difference in your medical practice.

Joey Cavanaugh, RN, is the chief operations officer at Zotec Partners