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Posted by: Brent Walker, SVP Marketing & Analytics, PatientBond
It’s no secret that healthcare costs are rising, both in general and for patients out-of-pocket. People are choosing lower-premium insurance plans that have a higher deductible, often not realizing that means an increase in patient financial responsibility. Out-of-pocket costs are increasing by up to 14%, and more patients are seeing higher costs than in previous years.
Sixty-eight percent of patients failed to fully pay off medical bills in 2016, and this number is expected to climb to 95% by 2020. When patients receive bills they weren’t expecting or for amounts higher than they had budgeted, it can have a significant impact on their behavior and potentially cause them to avoid paying the bill as long as possible. This avoidance of patient payments, in turn, hurts your organization’s revenue cycle. Fortunately, there are two ways urgent care centers can overcome this challenge: consumer psychology and automated engagement.
Consumer Psychology & Patient Self-Pay
Rising healthcare costs impact patient behavior — whether they choose to avoid them, as previously mentioned, or seek out payment plans to alleviate the financial burden. With that being said, it’s no surprise that analyzing consumer decisions and behavior can help urgent care centers understand the strategies that will most effectively speed up patient self-pay.
Demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, health condition, etc.) and socioeconomic (education, income, geography, etc.) variables can give healthcare providers some insight into consumer behavior. Demographics, in particular, have been used by marketers for decades to define their target audience. However, as countless real-world marketing campaigns have shown, it’s not uncommon for people who fall within the same demographic profile to act in very different ways. The same goes for socioeconomic factors. Members of the same age group, ethnicity, or income bracket, for example, do not think and act alike.
That is where psychographic variables come in. Psychographics pertain to people’s attitudes, values, lifestyles and personalities and are core to their motivations and communication preferences. Psychographics explain why people do what they do and what messaging will activate desired behaviors. Further, psychographic segmentation is the grouping of consumers according to these psychographic traits for more effective engagement. This consumer science provides deeper insights than demographic or socioeconomic segmentation alone and has been used for decades by successful companies like Procter & Gamble, Walmart, and CVS to influence consumer choice and behaviors.
Extensive market research has been conducted to identify five distinct psychographic segments based on their unique approaches and attitudes toward healthcare:
Importantly, each psychographic segment has different attitudes regarding finances and their ability to pay medical bills.
Willful Endurers are much more likely to believe they cannot afford healthcare, and this research also indicates they are the most likely segment to avoid paying a medical bill. This finding is important for urgent care, because Willful Endurers represent 67% of all patients who visit an urgent center quarterly or more frequently. Urgent care center performance can be driven by Willful Endurer patients, but this segment is most likely to represent challenges in self-pay collections.
Because each psychographic segment has unique motivations and priorities, a “one size fits all” message will not be effective. Each segment requires a different engagement strategy. How an urgent care center messages a Willful Endurer is necessarily different than how one would message any of the four other segments to activate desired behaviors.
Thus, being able to identify these particular consumers and craft messaging that speaks to their unique attitudes and motivations is key to accelerating patient financial responsibility payments. Consumer psychology and psychographics, more specifically, enable this.
Automated Engagement & Payment Systems
Some medical bills go unpaid simply because it’s not easy enough for patients to make the payment. In a world where we can pay for most products and services online, from reserving a parking space to purchasing an expensive event ticket, people are used to digital payments. If the only payment option is to make a phone call or send something in by mail, patients might simply ignore it because it’s too much work or forget about it as the letter sits on the counter.
If you can reach your patients through digital channels (e.g., text/SMS, email) and offer them a chance to submit their payment online, you will likely see an increase in patient self-pay. In addition to quick payments, digital automation means taking work off the shoulders of your staff so they can focus on caring for the patients they see every day.
In fact, urgent care patients would prefer to receive balance statements via email and other digital channels rather than a mailed statement. The following graph illustrates how Willful Endurers prioritize methods of receiving Balance Due statements:
Moreover, urgent care patients (especially Willful Endurers) would overwhelmingly prefer to pay their balance online via credit card than all other forms of payment.
With patient financial responsibility increasing, offering easy ways to pay and follow up with patients through digital channels is a great way to meet consumers where they are. In turn, automating the payment process can also significantly increase cash flow and speed to payment while decreasing collections costs without burdening your staff.
The Return on Investment for urgent care centers that implement digital patient self-pay solutions, especially solutions that leverage psychographic insights, is fast and substantial. In addition to helping the bottom line, it also enhances patient satisfaction, which can translate to repeat visits and increased market share.
Urgent Care Association
28600 Bella Vista Pkwy, Suite 2010
Warrenville, IL 60555
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