The State of Patient Access 2.0: 4 opportunities to strengthen the digital experience

August 23, 2021 by Experian Health

“93% of providers say creating a better patient experience remains a top priority, up 3% from last year.”

– Experian Health’s State of Patient Access, June 2021

In November 2020, we surveyed patients and providers for their sentiments on how patient access changed because of the pandemic. During this time, patients welcomed the convenience and control that came with digital, contactless care. Providers knew they needed to improve their digital front door to withstand the financial impact of COVID-19, but implementation was difficult for many organizations. Six months on, and millions of immunized Americans later, the pandemic landscape shifted again. In June 2021, we revisited these questions to find out if patient and provider views have changed – in our State of Patient Access 2.0. Now, patients tell us they feel more confident about returning to facilities, though they still want the flexibility and convenience of digital scheduling, registration, and payment options. Providers feel a growing urgency to make sure online services are sufficiently agile enough to withstand any future surges in COVID-19 case numbers.

The findings of the survey reveal four major opportunities to rethink how we “do” healthcare. By innovating and building on the digital advances made possible during the pandemic, providers can create better patient access experiences for the future.

To start, providers should:

  1. Match consumer expectations for convenient and flexible patient access

    Our recent survey shows that the pandemic has cemented consumer expectations around convenient access to care. Digital and remote channels for scheduling appointments, completing pre-registration, and making payments have become the new baseline in patient access. Nearly three quarters of patients told us they want to schedule their own appointments online. Providers know this: 93% say creating a better patient experience remains a top priority, up 3% from last year. Online self-scheduling can help providers continue to meet their patients’ demands for flexibility and convenient access to care. Patients can find, book and cancel appointments whenever and wherever they prefer. It’s also a win for providers, who can expect to see a drop in administration errors, no-shows, and denied claims.

  2. Streamline prior authorizations as more patients return to care

    Interestingly, new data reveals that patients are less anxious about in-person care. In 2020, 40% of patients were uncomfortable coming into waiting rooms and seeing their doctor in person. Now, only 16% say they wouldn’t be comfortable in a waiting room. As more patients rush to reschedule deferred care, providers are faced with the challenging combination of higher patient volumes, patients jumping health plans as a result of job losses, and changing payer rules around prior authorizations and coverage checks. Automated pre-authorization and automated coverage checks can relieve the pressure, and help providers save time and resources.

  3. Promote price transparency for fewer missed payments

    An encouraging piece of insight from our latest survey reveals that far fewer patients say they’ve been surprised by their final medical bill. In 2020, more than 50% received a final figure that differed significantly from estimates. Six months later, that figure has dropped to just 14%. Price transparency remains important, and the gap between estimated and final costs seems to be closing. More providers are offering patient billing estimates, with 9 in 10 agreeing that accurate estimates increase the chance of bills being paid on time. Many are also giving patients more options to pay bills earlier in the journey, which has helped to minimize the risk of late and missed payments. Easy and accessible digital options are featured heavily in acquisition and retention plans, and can help drive financial recovery.

  4. Tighten up data strategies with better security, quality and insights

    While our first survey revealed that the sudden shift to digital-first patient access was a shock to the system for many providers, the second study shows that both patients and providers are settling into digital ways of working. But as these digital services become the new baseline, providers must make sure their data strategies are fit for purpose, and prioritize data security, quality and insights. Moving forward, a multi-layered approach will help providers authenticate and secure patient identities. When these identities are enriched with information about how patients are affected by the social determinants of health, providers will be better positioned to offer personalized patient access experiences and support marginalized groups.

The future of healthcare is digital. Is your organization prepared?

It’s clear from our recent survey that the digital trends that emerged in 2020 are set to continue throughout 2021 and beyond. Download the State of Patient Access 2.0 white paper to get the full survey results and explore how data and digitalization can power a 24/7 patient access experience in your healthcare organization.

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