At The University of Kansas Health System (UKHS), an initiative to transform the patient financial experience by expanding options for payment and putting greater emphasis on financial conversations not only increased patient financial engagement before COVID-19, but also has helped give patients greater peace of mind in seeking care during the pandemic.
High deductibles and rising out-of-pocket costs put increasing pressure on consumers’ pocketbooks prior to COVID-19. Now, with 10% of adults ages 19-64 uninsured in 2021—hospitals face a critical need to help patients better manage their cost of care.
In 2017, revenue cycle leaders set out to transform the patient financial experience to ensure patients felt better prepared to manage their out-of-pocket costs of care.
UKHS redesigned its approach to sharing out-of-pocket costs of care prior to the point of service. The goal: to help eliminate the financial stress that accompanies medical procedures, with an emphasis on patient estimates, clarity in communications, and live and web-based support. Additionally, the health system revamped its patient payment plan model to include long-term, zero-interest patient financing for patients in need, with discounts for true self-pay patients.
Compounding this challenge, payment plans among UKHS’ employed physician groups varied greatly. “We have 18 different specialties, and each physician group did its own thing,” Mickelson says. “Some allowed patients to enter into long-term payment plans; some did not. It was very inconsistent among the groups. If a patient underwent surgery, the specialties that contributed to the patient’s care may have each had different policies pertaining to payment, even when the care originated at our system. We knew we needed a better solution.”
UKHS contracted with AccessOne to add flexibility to its payment options across both hospital and physician accounts and establish a consistent patient financial experience no matter where the patient sought care within the system.
An AccessOne consumer survey taken just five months before the pandemic began reflected the point at which healthcare medical bills become a concern for consumers. Survey results showed 40% of consumers weren’t sure how they would pay an unexpected medical expense under $500, and 60% said an unexpected medical bill of less than $1,000 would spark worry. The economic uncertainty of COVID-19 heightened these concerns. A recent AccessOne survey conducted in October 2021 —shows:
At UKHS, leaders took a proactive approach to patient financial engagement long before the COVID-19 crisis, providing a variety of options for consumers to manage medical debt so they can focus on their health. The health system’s revenue
Through October 2021, $28.4 million in medical bills for UKHS patients have been financed through AccessOne, with $5.4 million financed January through October of 2021. More than 6,000 accounts have been established for UKHS patients and their families.
“I’m thrilled we can offer patients options on top of our
in-house financing plan,” Mickelson says. “Patients appreciate the various options for handling their medical bills, and staff are more confident in conducting complex financial conversations knowing that we have a variety of solutions to meet our patients’ needs.”
The results have been outstanding. Since 2017, the addition of longer-term, zero-interest patient financing has enabled UKHS to achieve the following:
Best of all, added flexibility around medical payment has enhanced the patient financial experience, improving patient satisfaction.