12 trends in patient responsibility payments, up 29.4% since 2015

Black Book released the 2017 Revenue Cycle Management survey findings, outlining key trends in healthcare payments, price transparency and strategies for providers.

"Emerging healthcare pay trends reveal the opportunity to help patients better anticipate, manage and track the cost of their care," said Doug Brown, managing partner of Black Book. "Innovative patient-friendly payment solutions that meet consumer preferences and enable fast transactions are playing a key role in this transaction."

Black Book conducted survey polls in the second and third quarters of 2017 with patients and providers. The patient surveys were focused on their responsibility for medical costs, while the 1,595 physician practices, 202 hospitals and 49 health systems surveyed reported on the impact of collections on their organizations.

The surveys found:

1. Since 2015, patients experienced a 29.4 percent increase in deductible and out-of-pocket maximum costs on average.

2. The typical consumer will be responsible for $1,820 in deductible payments this year and $4,400 in out-of-pocket costs.

3. The majority of healthcare providers, 82 percent, and 92 percent of hospitals surveyed reported traditional collection solutions are negatively impacting their profit margins, and that they are getting rid of manual efforts for back-end processes and bill reconciliation by the fourth quarter of 2018.

4. Many providers reported millions of dollars in unpaid medical bills and are turning to new processes and technologies to recover the monies owed. "Employing these solutions at the front end of the revenue cycle has given patient risk to providers and the attention has turned to establishing funding mechanisms to benefit not only the hospital or physician, but the consumer," said Mr. Brown. "Patients are truly the new payers."

5. In the first half of the year, 62 percent of medical bills were paid online and 95 percent of the consumers polled said they'd pay online if the providers had that option.

6. A majority of patients, 71 percent, said mobile pay and billing alerts improved their satisfaction with a provider.

7. Online patient payment estimations, plan administration and on-demand instructions were ranked among the top five improvements providers could make to increase satisfaction; all factors also improve price transparency for consumers.

8. Options for spouses, family members, friends and others to pay medical bills without accessing the patient's medical records are improving consumer satisfaction; 59 percent of consumers surveyed said online payments without the hassle of registration and passwords was convenient for them.

9. Small physician practices reported slow payment of high-deductible plans, which was the top challenge for 83 percent of the practices surveyed. The No. 2 challenge was the difficulties staff face in communicating patient accountability.

10. Nearly all, 89 percent, of provider financial administrators expect healthcare payments will be made on phones and mobile devices by the end of 2018, but just 20 percent are currently ready for electronic payments beyond checks, cash or credit and debit cards.

11. The three patient payment features in highest demand are:

• Managing consumer expectations through insurance eligibility verification: 91 percent
• Cost estimation: 85 percent
• More convenient payment mechanisms: 87 percent

12. Around 83 percent of ambulatory providers, including ASCs, indicated they typically estimate patient responsibilities incorrectly at the time of service, up from 73 percent last year.

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