How The Healthcare Consumer Affects Your Practice Operations

It's likely that you've heard the terms, "healthcare consumer" or "patient consumer", but you may not realize the impact this new patient role has on practice operations.

The healthcare consumer differs from patients of the past in a number of ways. Today's patient consumer is savvy. They look at healthcare providers in the same way they might look at other businesses they frequent--they know how to make informed choices and shop around for the best services to fit their needs.

But do healthcare providers know how best to meet their needs?

Patient Consumerism: Who Are Healthcare Consumers and What Do They Value?

Patients are responsible for a far higher portion of their own medical bills--a fact that is glaring healthcare providers in the face every day. And even more troubling is the fact that patient payments account for a larger percentage of yearly revenue than ever before. 

For patients, healthcare expenses are no longer viewed as a small cost of living, but as a much bigger investment. They want healthcare providers who will not only provide them value and keep them healthy, but also offer all of the modern conveniences that they encounter in their other consumer experiences. 

Practice Operations and Catering to the Consumer

With the healthcare consumer in mind, practice operations need to evolve to achieve the patient's overall satisfaction, while also providing the best possible health outcomes. No easy task in a culture accustomed to immediate gratification.

On a positive note, there are a number of changes that not only make things more convenient for the patient, but also streamline the office administrative and billing workload. Here are some examples of practice changes that can benefit both patients and your bottom line.

  • Eligibility Verification and POS Payment. Patients today want transparency with their healthcare, and for good reason - the price-tag is high and they often need to budget the overall bill. Practices should be able to estimate what the patient's insurance will pay so that they have an estimate at the time of visit and can plan a budget to pay the balance in a convenient way for them. This also benefits the practice, as it increases the likelihood of prompt payment.
  • Kiosks and Web Portals. Most patients want the convenience of being able to log-in from a computer or their phone to check test results, make payments, and even check-in for their appointments. Patient check-in kiosks, which are becoming an increasingly common solution for health systems looking to streamline front desk staff operations, offer a convenient and secure option for patients to better manage their care. 
  • Multi-Platform Communications. Patients don't always respond to snail mail or phone calls anymore. It's important to keep a conversation going with patients on platforms that are convenient for them. You might send a text or email reminders for appointments and balances or send out a newsletter to keep them up to date on health news that's pertinent to them. 

As the healthcare landscape evolves, the focus will be more about the consumer experience than ever before. How your organization models patient communications and operations will increasingly play a role in keeping patients more involved in their health.