Health care is the least transparent financial decision a person can make. For many consumers, price matters and uncertainty is stressful. As a result, consumers are calling for greater transparency in health care cost and it’s a big reason why they switch providers. In fact, 1 in 5 patients are ready to switch.

Is your health system ready to lose 20% of its population, or is it ready to pull 20% from the competition?

Between 2015 and 2017, Hailey Sault conducted two sets of research with over 1,100 U.S. consumers, ages 25–64, to discover “Why Patients Switch.” Here are the biggest factors related to cost transparency:

  1. Concern for quality health care is high, and consumer confidence is low. Over the time covered by the study period, results from the study show 50% more consumers are shopping or considering switching than just three years ago.
  2. For the first time, cost made it as a tier one driver for change in a health care provider as shown in the research. 82% of respondents shared that they want clearer information about their medication and treatments and 62% want to understand the costs before a treatment.
  3. Consumers believe health care is becoming less affordable, and less accessible. More importantly, they feel health care is the least transparent financial decision they’ll ever make. 63% of patients said they want cost to meet their expectations.
  4. Millennials are the future of the health care industry. They take pride in managing their finances and seeking out the best care. 58% say health care costs remain a mystery to them and 53% want to know how much they are being billed and for what.  

 

Faced with high-deductible health plans and increasing out-of-pocket expenses, patients are seeking answers. The unknown costs of an emergency department visit or a surgery are daunting for many and often a bill arrives full of surprises.

What patients really want to know: what their true out-of-pocket cost will be, where they can find the best care for their money, whether or not insurance will cover it, and steps they can take if they are unable to pay.

In their own words: “I just want a health care specialist to really hear me and understand I’m a part of the decision making process, and that cost is important to me. If I knew how much something cost, I might not be as inclined to put a procedure off,” said a patient interviewed at the SHSMD 2017 conference.

So, what can you do about it? Here are ways to implement this change in your organization.

  1. Audit all of your marketing content to assess where you can insert a conversation about cost. Tactics should include:
    • Online portal for patients to schedule a one-on-one financial consult with a      billing specialist.
    • Short videos answering many common financial questions.
    • A graphic that explains how billing works at your health system.
  2. Hold a seminar. “What to expect when you are expecting a health care bill.” Every system has its own unique patient population. This is a way you can connect with the community, answer questions and differentiate your health system from its competition.
  3. Ask at intake if they’d like a consult. Whether patients can book an appointment online or must call in, giving them the option for a financial consult will leave them feeling empowered and cared for.
  4. Download our free cost guide resource. It will show you how to help patients understand cost, provide insights for building customer loyalty and patient retention, and how to differentiate and attract patients willing to switch.

When patients are informed, they are empowered to make educated decisions. As health care costs continue to rise, consumers are expected to take a greater share of their health care premium, and will seek even more transparency from providers. This is particularly important for high deductible plans, which many employers are moving toward to reduce premiums. If you implement strategies now that help consumers understand cost transparency, you may gain market share or at least prevent yours from shrinking.