Patient Billing Portal Makeover Boosts Patient Engagement (Part 2 of 2)

Published: January 21, 2015 by Paul Hoffman

As discussed in part one of this blog series, technology such as patient portals are changing the way physicians are interacting with patients and how those patients access their medical information. An article in USA Today quotes the American Academy of Family Physicians on usage:

  • 41% of family practice physicians use portals for secure messaging
  • Another 35% use them for patient education
  • About one-third use them for prescribing medications and scheduling appointments

While intuitively it might seem that online interactions would distance physicians and patients, the reverse is actually true. Researchers found that patients who had online access to their physicians and other healthcare professionals increased their use of in-person and telephone clinical services, according to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Increases in patient engagement can carry over into patient billing portals. Take Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC), for example. The organization decided to update its patient billing portal two years ago in the hopes that a better interface and more functionality would increase the number of families using the portal.

With only a one-time notice in a paper statement, CCHMC saw adoption rates soar more than tenfold in the first year after implementing the new platform. CCHMC, which is consistently ranked in the nation’s top five children’s hospitals, also experienced an increase in collections of 10-15%, and a five-fold increase of online payments, up from $200,000/month to $1 million/month.

The patient-friendly portal now has more than 22,000 families using its self-service functions. The portal gives users 24/7 online account management, along with the ability to schedule appointments, pay bills and access lab results. Families now have anytime, anywhere access to their account, an important benefit for busy families trying to cope with a sick child.

In conjunction with the online portal modernization, CCHMC also gave its printed patient statements a facelift. Not only did patients find the previous multi-page statements confusing, it had become increasingly expensive and time consuming to make even minor information changes and updates. Altering something as simple as a phone number or office hours could cost thousands of dollars in custom programming fees.

The adoption of a new patient statement solution has given CCHMC the ability to make statement changes in house, eliminating custom programming while also reducing mailing expenses. In the first year, CCHMC saved $70,000 on their monthly invoicing due to lower printing and mailing costs, reducing the statement size from two pages to one and receiving discounts on postage.

With patient experience and engagement a top priority for providers, it’s critical to consider a similar approach that works for your organization—an approach that will help patients be more active participants in their health, as well as support your clinical and financial goals.

CCHMC will discuss its experiences with patient engagement, administrative savings and lessons learned at our January 28 Webinar, “Improving the Patient Billing Experience Through Online Customer Self-Service.” Register now to attend.

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