Patient and provider perspectives on patient access

Published: May 21, 2024 by Experian Health

Patient and provider perspectives on patient access

What do patients and providers really think about patient access services in 2024? Drawing insights from more than 1000 patients and 200 healthcare executives, Experian Health’s fourth State of Patient Access survey pulls back the curtain. Previous surveys revealed a persistent gap between patient and provider perspectives on patient access, but could the gap finally be closing? The State of Patient Access 2024 report suggests that while discrepancies remain, the two groups appear closer than ever.

This article provides a summary of the State of Patient Access 2024 report, and gives a run-down of patient and provider perspectives on patient access, what they see as top challenges, where opinions diverge and the steps providers can take to continue building a positive patient access experience in the year ahead.

How do patients feel about patient access?

1. More patients think access has improved compared to last year

28% of patients believe patient access has improved over the last year, which is up from just 17% in 2023. As in previous years, patients’ perception of whether access has improved hinges on how quickly they can see their doctor. Anything providers can do to accelerate scheduling and registration will be a winner.

2. Patients welcome the efficiency and accuracy of digital tools

Patients have noticed improvements in scheduling and registration processes. They welcome the ability to book appointments anytime and avoid unnecessary paperwork using digital technology. That said, financial considerations trump convenience: the ability to look up insurance coverage and obtain accurate price estimates before care have risen to the top of the list of what patients consider the most important aspects to improve.

3. Cost of care remains a concern

Unfortunately, patient sentiment around healthcare payments has remained relatively flat since 2022. Slightly more patients are receiving upfront cost estimates compared to previous years, but accuracy appears to have dropped, with 74% of patients reporting accurate estimates compared to 78% in 2023. Patients must have faith in their estimates if they are to plan for upcoming bills with confidence, and providers should be able to provide transparent and accurate payment estimates.

What do providers think about patient access?

1. Providers are again more optimistic about improvements than patients

Like patients, providers are generally positive about the state of patient access, though they may be a little too optimistic about the effect of improvement efforts. Around twice as many providers think access is better than the previous year compared to patients (55% compared to 28%). For providers, perceptions of improvements in patient access are closely tied to the impact of staffing levels.

2. Self-scheduling is back in favor

Providers are aligned with patients on the need for digital scheduling and registration options. Interestingly, after the urgency to implement contactless scheduling during the pandemic began to wane in 2022, the latest survey suggests that self-scheduling is back in fashion, with 63% offering self-scheduling compared to 40% in 2022.

3. “Dirty data” remains a stubborn challenge

Data collection at patient intake is a persistent headache for providers. Almost half (49%) say that inaccurate patient information contributes to claim denials. Improving the speed and accuracy of resolving patient information prior to claims submission were frequently listed in providers’ top three challenges.

See how healthcare organizations are using AI AdvantageTM to improve data accuracy and reduce claim denials.

Digital technology bridges the gap between patient and provider perspectives on patient access

When asked for their top three priorities for improvement, both groups ranked accurate price estimates and efficient insurance verification among their top two. While they diverge on the third – access to online health management tools for patients, and automated pre-authorizations for providers – it’s interesting to note that these both reflect a desire to use digital solutions for greater efficiency and convenience.

The survey highlights several opportunities to use digital technology to address upcoming challenges and continue to close the gap.

Key challenges in patient access in the year ahead

1. Improving accuracy of upfront price estimates

The survey showed 79% of providers plan to invest in patient access improvements soon. Given shared concerns about patients’ ability to cover the cost of care, and worrying hints that some may postpone care due to cost concerns, prioritizing and providing accurate patient estimates would be a smart choice. While patients and providers are in closer agreement that estimates are accurate most or all of the time (74% and 85% respectively), there’s clearly room for improvement.

2. Accelerating insurance verification and claims submission processes

Several of the providers’ top challenges speak to how difficult it can be to collate accurate information prior to claims submission. The need for better insurance reviews, more efficient management of prior authorizations, and more accurate patient information all contribute to the overarching goal of getting properly reimbursed. Almost a fifth say that managing multiple tools to determine eligibility, coordination of benefits (COB), and other pre-service checks is a top challenge. Could a single solution be the answer?

Experian Health’s new Patient Access Curator solution checks eligibility, COB, Medicare and commercial coverage, demographics and financial status in less than 30 seconds. Staff can check off several of these tedious tasks with just a single click.

3. Bolstering workforce capacity with technology

A final challenge in the year ahead is the ongoing impact of staffing shortages. For the of providers who feel that staffing levels are disrupting delivery of scheduling and registration services, technology may offer a way through. Automation and artificial intelligence not only reduce the burden on staff by eliminating time-consuming manual tasks, but also allow staff to work smarter and faster on remaining tasks by improving data accuracy and insights.

Most importantly, digital technology can improve scheduling, registration and payment processes for patients – and bring the patient experience in line with what both groups aspire to see.

Download the full report: State of Patient Access 2024, or contact Experian Health to learn how technology can help streamline patient access.

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