Success Speaks: UC San Diego Health Transforms Bill Payments to Improve Patient Satisfaction
Primum non nocere, “first, do no harm,” is a Latin maxim that serves as a fundamental principle of the medical community. Essentially, the phrase states that in some cases, it may be better to do nothing than to intervene. For UC San Diego Health, however, intervention was necessary to transform their billing and deliver an improved payments experience for their patients.
I recently took part in a Becker’s Hostpital Review webinar, alongside Terri Meier, System Director – Patient Revenue Cycle for UC San Diego Health, and Mark Archer, Co-founder of Noggintechs. We discussed the various strategies and technologies that can be employed to raise patient financial satisfaction.
UC San Diego Health’s Challenge
When Meier first came to UC San Diego Health, the biggest issue in billing was quite obvious to her. “Billing was handled by two separate departments; one for hospital and one for professional services,” she said. “Our patients were receiving two payment statements, had to set up two payment plans and had to call two customer service departments regarding bills.”
This led to an inefficient system where patients received different answers depending upon whom they called.
And speaking of calls, Meier pointed out that their patient advocacy department, which handles concerns and issues of patients, was receiving an increasing number of complaints specifically about the billing experience. Not only was billing responsible for poor patient experience in some cases, it also led to internal inefficiencies that hindered performance.
To add to all of this, UC San Diego Health had competition (literally) across the street. If they couldn’t deliver a satisfying payments experience, they risked losing patients to competitors.
“Improving the patient experience was a priority,” explained Meier. “The billing component does have a great impact. Even if the clinical care is good, the last thing that patients remember is getting that bill, and the struggle they had in paying that bill at times.”
With this in mind, it was decided that the revenue department would be restructured under one director, creating a chance to align the entire department. The first step was to hire an executive director to lead the team, and according to Meier, the candidate they ultimately hired had noticed in their research that people loved the care they received, but not the billing.
Since leadership was keenly aware of the situation, it was easy to create a business case for transformation.
Solutions to Satisfy
Meier and her team were looking to create unity within the revenue department. They implemented Epic Single Billing Office, which provided Meier a chance to look at the role of the customer service reps and the organizational structure as a whole. This led to the hiring of more billing and collection experts, who could deliver insightful payment answers for patients.
Meier’s team also unified policies and procedures to ensure the entire team was working from the same foundation. They analyzed patients’ reasons for calling and developed response guides so that patients received consistent answers, regardless of with whom they ultimately spoke. “Those patients who do end up calling in, having the right person on the other end of the phone who can answer that phone call, is really the turning point for us.”
A big priority was the simplification of the patient statement. The team put a lot of time into developing a much clearer statement, which was created with the help of patient advocacy groups. This new statement is very clean and works towards a single goal – to elicit a specific payment from the patient.
The team also optimized their interactive voice response (IVR) system to deliver a best-in-class experience for patients who still need to call. This IVR system takes advantage of a consumer touchpoint that is not often a priority but can yield big dividends.
Finally, the team focused on analytics-driven segmentation. This segmentation allows them to deliver the right message, using the right channel, at the right time. It also helps to create a certain level of personalization, giving patients the feeling of being treated as individuals rather than numbers on a ledger.
Better Service through Technology
Mark Archer, Co-founder of Noggintechs, furthered the discussion with one declarative statement –traditional tactics are expensive and becoming less effective. The net result is that collection rates go down, costs go up and patient satisfaction nosedives.
So, what’s the answer? As Archer says, “A lot of surveys are telling us that by 2020, individuals will manage about 85 percent of their relationship with an enterprise online.”
With mobile phone ownership and internet usage climbing across all demographics, Archer says these are obvious avenues on which to focus. Given the wealth of analytics, technology and the fact that 65 percent of patients say they would consider switching providers for a better payments experience, the timing is right for medical providers to align their collection practices to patient preferences.
One of the biggest advances in payments that providers should take advantage of is real-time payments. According to Lipis Advisors, real-time payments in healthcare will grow at more than 100 percent CAGR from 2018-2022. We’ve made the case for real-time payments before, but it bears repeating: Patients' ability to pay in real time keeps their accounts balanced and ensures they won’t suffer bounced checks or overdraft fees. There’s also the added bonus of delivering refunds or reimbursements to members in real time, which will always be a crowd pleaser.
Archer’s final piece of advice is that providers must get ahead of the customer expectation curve and redefine themselves. If done well, patients will give you more cash at a lower cost.
UC San Diego Health Builds Payments Success
The benefits of this transformation have been immediate, both internally and externally.
For employees, not only were they a part of the implementation process, but they are now more involved in hiring decisions. Meier’s team comes to a mutual decision when bringing on new teammates, ensuring that all new hires adhere to the mission of delivering a better payments experience.
For patients, Meier credits them with helping to create this new system. “A lot of it the patients built for us, with their dissatisfaction of the billing process.” Now, patients receive a simplified bill and consistent answers in the instances when they do call or reach out. They also received more personalized communications and more payment channels. It is an optimized experience for all patients.
Meier says the plan for now is to continue to expand their omni-channel customer support and to finish a double upgrade of their Epic solution to enable more mobile capabilities.
With 2019 quickly approaching, the time is now to begin crafting your 2019 budgeting and strategy for optimizing bill payments and driving patient financial satisfaction. Contact us to schedule a consultation with an ACI payments expert who can help you expand your offerings.
To learn more, view the on-demand webinar.
Related Blog Posts
How to be a Payments Trailblazer – The Seven Habits of Highly Innovative Organizations
The new Culture of Innovation Index from Ovum and ACI identified segments—from banks to intermediaries to merchants to corporates—at the cutting edge (of innovation) across the payments ecosystem. But what is most notable about those segments that have reached ‘trailblazing’ status is the apparent lack of commonality between them. No one segment, nor one region fosters better innovation. In fact, what’s driving these segments/organizations to be best of breed is their own culture of excellence. The only thing they have in common is their attitude.
New Survey Results How Lenders Can Capture More of the Billion Dollar Pie
It should come as no surprise that the disruption found throughout the world of payments would impact the world of consumer finance. Fact is, the eCommerce experience enjoyed by shoppers has created an undeniable ripple effect for everyone from bankers to lenders. And with billions of dollars at stake, it’s important to understand the impact of this paradigm shift, especially as it applies to the growing demographic known as Gen Z.
Success Speaks: Surprising New Ways Students Want to Pay
Colleges and universities are facing the dual tasks of accommodating not only new payment methods, but also a new generation of students, Gen Z, whose expectations differ greatly from even millennials. How can higher education institutions meet these demands?
In our latest Success Speaks webinar, experts from Temple University, FutureCast, ACI and MTFX Group of Companies explored today’s payments landscape for colleges and universities, payment desires of Gen Z, innovations the higher education sector is already implementing and how schools can better assist with international payments.
Why Banks Must Democratize Machine Learning for Fraud Prevention and Payments Intelligence
Banks are already actively on the path to digital transformation, considering new technologies, new customer experiences and new business models. A critical piece of this digital transformation centers on better understanding the wealth of data within the banks’ systems and mining it for improved customer insight. In the New Payments Ecosystem, data is as valuable to the bank and its customers as the deposits held in their accounts, and it should be protected, and leveraged for the benefit of the customer.
Paying Tuition – How Can Universities Make It Painless?
Six in ten families feel anxious about bills, five in ten paid a tuition bill late in the past year, and university student financial services leaders have fewer staff and smaller budgets to help families with their bills.
Survey Shows Millennials Aren’t as ‘Digitally Savvy’ When it Comes to Tax Refunds
It was not so long ago that checks, stamps and envelopes occupied more than the junk drawer in most American households. But as electronic payments and text messaging grew, asking, “Do you have a stamp?” was more likely to be met with a confused look than an actual stamp.
And yet, a recent online survey by YouGov and ACI indicates that there’s still a place for checks when it comes to paying taxes or – at least for Millennials – receiving refunds.
University Payments Made Simple for Students and Parents
According to Sallie Mae, a significant portion of tuition revenue for higher educational institutions comes from students (27%) and parents (44%), with students struggling more to pay their bills on time. As our team gets ready to head to New Orleans for Ellucian Live 2019, we looked at what’s new in the payments realm for higher education institutions, and what students and parents need to ensure their payments are made on time and with less friction. A recent survey from Aite Group, “U.S. Consumer Payments Experience: A Blueprint for Creating Positive Behaviors,” which surveyed 2,425 U.S. consumers, sheds some light on this topic.
Gen Z: Chronic Late Payers
Why More Than Half of Gen Z Pays Late
The newest generation of consumers to enter the workforce is Dazed and Confused about how to make bill payments (and they most likely don’t get that reference). In fact, 80% of Gen Z contact companies with billing questions and 53% pay their bills late. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Success Speaks: How Roanoke College Simplified Higher Education Billing and Commerce
Campus commerce has quickly become the ultimate test for payment software providers, IT professionals and administrators. Technology stacks and service offerings are continuously challenged by rapid innovation, just as budgets have begun to shrink. And to top it off, cybersecurity threats lurk around every corner, and even a single breach can destroy student confidence in their institution of higher learning.
Success Speaks: Exploring the Future of Payments Collections in Auto-Finance with SAFCO
When it comes to improving collections, there’s one simple question your organization should ask before embarking on any type of payments project: what does “customer service” mean to our customers?