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The State of Patient Access 2024

Published: April 29, 2024 by Experian Health

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The State of Patient Access 2024is the fourth in a series of patient and provider surveys that began in 2020. This year’s report compares how patients experience access to care and providers’ perceptions of those experiences. This blog post highlights findings from the survey, which was conducted in February 2024 and is based on 200 healthcare revenue cycle decision-makers and more than 1,000 patients.

The study finds that perceptions of access to care are improving. It’s a positive sign that providers are moving in the right direction—but there are still have mountains to climb. What remains the same from prior surveys is that providers believe access to care is much better than what their patients are truly experiencing.

The survey showed 55% of healthcare providers believe patient access has improved. It’s a big jump from 2022, when just 27% of doctors felt access increased. What’s striking, however, is that patients don’t completely agree. Only 28% say patient access improved in 2023, an 11% increase from the prior year. Over half (51%) of patients and 26% of providers say patient access has remained fairly static.

While the findings show access is improving, there is still a gap between patient experience and provider perception. How can providers improve care access and make their perceptions a reality for their patients?

Download The State of Patient Access 2024 report to get the perspectives from patients and providers on their perceptions of access to healthcare.

Myths vs. realities of patient access

The good news from the survey is that most providers and patients agree access to care isn’t worsening. Despite increasing patient volumes and chronic staff shortages, patient access is better than before the pandemic. The findings are a sharp reversal from last year’s report, where almost one-half of providers and one-fifth of patients reported care access had grown more challenging.

  • Patient access is:
    • Better
      • Patients: 28%
      • Providers: 55%
    • The same
      • Patients: 51%
      • Providers: 26%
    • Worse
      • Patients: 22%
      • Providers: 20%

Consistently, across these annual surveys, providers believe access to care delivery is better than what their patients experience. The survey highlights opportunities to bridge this gap by using digital technologies to align the patient experience and provider assumptions.

Opportunity 1: Provide accurate upfront financial estimates

  • 96% of patients want an accurate upfront estimate of treatment costs.
  • 88% of providers agree an accurate upfront estimate contributes to successful patient payments.

The survey showed upfront cost estimates are central to a better patient experience. A high percentage of patients (96%) said an accurate estimate of treatment costs is essential before service—so crucial that 43% said they would cancel their procedure without it. Yet 64% of patients did not receive a cost estimate before care, despite increasing state and federal regulations that require this transparency.

Perhaps even more troubling, the accuracy for those estimates is questionable. Of the 31% of patients who received a pre-procedure cost estimate, 14% reported the final cost was much higher than anticipated. At the same time, 85% of providers say their estimates are accurate most or all the time. The gap in provider perception and patient reality come together at the point of understanding the need for accurate cost estimates. Understanding what is covered by insurance helps patients manage their healthcare costs. Providers are invested in getting estimates correct because they are a key part of getting paid on time, in full.

Patient payment estimates software can automatically create a more accurate picture of costs, reducing the burden on healthcare staff and eliminating unwelcome patient surprises. Consolidating service pricing estimate data from multiple sources empowers patient accountability and decision-making. One health system used these digital tools to increase point-of-service patient collections by nearly 60%, producing estimates that were 80 to 90% accurate.

Opportunity 2: Improve data collection at patient intake

  • 85% of patients dislike repetitive paperwork during the intake process.
  • Almost half (49%) of providers say patient information errors are a primary cause of denied claims.

The survey showed patients and providers are frustrated with the data collections process during registration. More than eight of 10 providers say automation could improve this process. Yet, in practice, intake remains primarily manual. Patients complain they shouldn’t have to complete the same paperwork at each visit. Providers know these manual tasks lead to errors that cause big headaches for claims departments later. However, only 31% consider improving the speed and accuracy of collecting patient information a priority.

The top reasons for claim denials are paperwork inaccuracies and missing or incomplete claim information. Human errors cause challenges when it’s time for providers to get paid. Up to 50% of claims denials stem from a paperwork processing error at patient intake. As a result, in 2022 alone, healthcare providers spent nearly $20 billion pursuing reimbursement denials. Everyone agrees that providers must do all they can to prevent errors. Providers understand claims denials are a significant roadblock to cash flow. Patients grow frustrated when account balances remain in limbo long after their procedure is complete.

Digital technology can streamline patient access and transform the healthcare revenue cycle. Experian Health’s Patient Access Curator solutioncan check eligibility, COB, MBI, demographics, insurance coverage, and financial status in less than 30 seconds, in one click, speeding up the laborious human intake process that creates anxiety—and errors—for patients and providers.

Opportunity 3: Give patients online self-service options

  • 89% of patients said the ability to schedule appointments anytime via online or mobile tools is important.
  • 63% of providers have or plan to implement self-scheduling options.

According to this year’s survey, self-scheduling is hot; waiting on hold with a call center is not. Digital and paperless pre-registration is increasingly important to patients and there is evidence that providers are finally starting to listen. For example, 84% of the providers strongly agreed that digital and mobile access is important to patients.

However, self-scheduling did not make the list of the top three provider priorities for improving patient access to care. But the data tells us patients hold out hope for a mobile-first online scheduling process that puts them in the driver’s seat to control their access to care.

Convenient online scheduling software gives patients control over booking, canceling, and rescheduling appointments. It’s a digital front door that’s easy to use across any device. Automated notifications can remind patients of annual health exams, replacing the need for staff calls and closing any gaps in preventative care. These tools can reduce time spent scheduling patients by 50% and significantly decrease appointment no-shows. More importantly, they give patients the digital experience they demand.

Digital technology brings together patient experience and provider perceptions

The State of Patient Access 2024 survey illustrates a narrowing gap between what providers perceive and patients experience. That’s good news because a lack of access to healthcare is a contributing factor to a sicker population, which costs much more in the long run. According to Deloitte, barriers to accessing healthcare in this country will grow to a $1 trillion problem by 2040. Patients will continue to experience care access issues in the coming years, from staffing shortages and a lack of rural providers, higher co-pays and more.

Can we bridge these future gaps? The answer is a resounding yes. While there’s still work to do, the survey showed that 79% of providers plan to invest in patient access improvements soon.

Download The State of Patient Access 2024 to get the full survey results, or contact us to see how Experian Health can help your organization improve patient access. 

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