Ignoring consumerism leads to lower volume. AHA and HFMA offer a few tips on how to share prices with consumers

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Revenue loss after revenue loss. Losses getting bigger each year. Financial woes for hospitals in the U.S. are nothing new. But things are getting worse and showing no signs of improving. Take LifePoint Health and Community Health Systems. Two huge hospital systems whose revenues have dropped and losses have grown and each year reveals a bleaker picture.

According to an article in Becker’s Hospital Review, “LifePoint’s financials were affected by lower patient volume. The company said admissions, inpatient surgeries, outpatient surgeries and emergency room visits all declined year over year in the first quarter of 2018. After factoring in operating expenses and one-time charges, LifePoint ended the first quarter of this year with a net loss attributable to the company of $8.8 million. That’s compared to the first quarter of 2017, when the company posted net income of $59.9 million.”[1]

HealthCareDive reported that Community Health Systems third quarter net operating revenues had a decrease of 5.9% from the year before, a massive shareholder loss of $325 million, (a $215 million greater loss than the year before). “Lower volume was partially to blame, as the quarter saw a 12.4% decrease in total admissions and a 12.2% decrease in total adjusted admissions compared with the same period in 2017.”[2]

Then there are the community hospitals. Almost every week we see reports of bankruptcies and closures. Community hospitals make up 85% of all hospitals in the country.[3] What is happening to our healthcare systems? Why is the situation so dire?

U.S. hospital systems continue to ignore the reality of consumerism in healthcare. And yet, consumerism IS a major part of healthcare and it’s here to stay. People vote with their feet, with convenience and price dominating their choices. Portals and websites are not effective and do not provide a retail experience. For outpatient services, the choices are growing, hitting hospitals with more and more competition.

Walmart, already a player in healthcare, has just announced plans to build clinics in their parking lots, yet one more nail in healthcare systems’ coffins. A Walmart spokesperson told Business Insider, “We envision a more robust and dynamic shopping experience that combines entertainment venues, curated local food vendors, health and fitness services as well as recreational opportunities in a way that connects and engages with the community.”[4]

Convenience and price. Two of the main factors that draw consumers. Walmart and Amazon have perfected these drawing cards. Providing consumers with the Amazon retail experience in healthcare is a way to combat the myriad of disrupters and competition facing traditional hospital systems.

Consumers are the new payers in healthcare and they are worried about the high costs of healthcare and tired of not being able to get a straight answer about the cost before services are rendered. Many are either putting off healthcare services or not able to pay once they receive them. According to a survey referenced in Becker’s Hospital Review, “twenty-seven percent of respondents with children said they delayed care in the last two years because they couldn’t afford it.” [5]  And 46% of people “said they would be concerned about their ability to cover an unexpected medical expense of $1,000 or more.”[6] That’s up from 39% just last year.

The upcoming price transparency rules by CMS are just the beginning of regulations within healthcare that the administration is putting into place to help consumers. Are you going to take the path of least resistance and publish a charge master? That might satisfy the government, but it will scare off the consumer who has more options than ever before.

To help hospitals prepare for price transparency, The American Hospital Association published a price toolkit, and part of it contains suggestions from the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) to prepare for price transparency. One tip stood out to us because it helps people easily find the prices:

Consider how care purchasers will access the information you provide. Price information might be publicly posted on a website, made available on a password-protected website (e.g., for health plan members), or made available in response to an inquiry submitted via website or made by phone. However you plan to provide access to price information, make sure that patients can easily find out how to get it.”[7]

HealthQRS provides the way to publish prices on a website that can be easily accessed by people. We have the platform to help you with this and we can have you ready to go in a matter of weeks.

RevCycleIntelligence also published tips for providers to improve their price transparency.[8] We can help with each one:

  1. Prepare for Hospital Price Transparency

HealthQRS allows you to provide actual prices, not just estimates, in an easy-to-use smartphone app where people can stay in network, shop for services, schedule with you, and pay for those services right from the app. You can set business rules to allow for discounts based on early payments, charity, and whatever else you wish to structure.

  1. Consider a Bundled Pricing Strategy

Our solution allows you to bundle pricing. This helps avoid surprise billing, which, in turn, allows for more satisfied patients. It also ensures that more providers actually receive their money.

  1. Educate Staff on How to Discuss Prices and Patient Financial Responsibility

Our point-of-service solution has interactive, intuitive scripts that your scheduling department, registrars and front-office staff can use to discuss prices and patient responsibility. Discounts can be offered at scheduling and check-in, and staff members can instantly see actual patient responsibility, not just estimates.

  1. Implement Price Transparency Tools

Within a few weeks, we can have your entire system up and running with fully-implemented price transparency tools. We go beyond just providing a transparency tool to meet CMS requirements. We allow you to meet the requirements, and we provide an easy-to-use retail platform that gives consumers the Amazon retail experience. Our solution integrates fully with your EHR and allows you to provide meaningful use numbers as well.

As you face mounting competition, your hospital system does not have to succumb like the others. You can offer people a better experience. You can give them the Amazon retail experience in healthcare and HealthQRS can help you do it right now.

HealthQRS can set you up with a full retail site right now. Our platform is ready and we can help you proactively publish prices and beat the competition who is digging in their heels waiting for the forced mandates. Walmart could even use our platform for their employees and their customers.

HealthQRS provides you with the infrastructure to create an online experience for consumers including accurate pricing (not just estimates). We enable telehealth connectivity as well. Our technology enables people to connect to more cost-effective, consumer-oriented healthcare options and we keep them in-network. HealthQRS integrates fully to your EHR and can also enhance your existing portals and other patient engagement solutions and improve your meaningful use numbers and increase meaningful use funds.

HealthQRS is the perfect vertical application for integrated delivery networks. We provide regulation compliance and serve as a marketing tool for your facilities. In addition, HealthQRS allows you to be compliant with the new CMS transparency rules beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

We are a software-as-a-service (SaaS), so you have no capital investment, just a low monthly fee. We also have a smartphone application that consumers can use to shop, see actual costs, schedule and pay for services with a few finger taps.

HealthQRS has over 15 years of experience developing healthcare retail experiences for people and our founders have over 50 combined years of e-commerce experience. We invite you to watch our user-friendly app video that you can use to win consumers. We also have a point-of-service solution video that may interest you. You can also check out our E-Commerce Medical Marketplace Flyer for more information. Why not contact us right now to schedule a personalized demo?

Walmart is ready to snap up consumers looking for alternatives because they are giving them an easy healthcare shopping experience. You need to be giving your consumers that same level of customer service if you want to compete.

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[1] Ayla Ellison, “LifePoint slips to $8.8M net loss as admissions decline,” Becker’s Hospital Review, May 4, 2018, https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/lifepoint-slips-to-8-8m-net-loss-as-admissions-decline.html

[2] Rebecca Pifer, “CHS sees massive Q3 net loss amid weak volume, aftershocks of HMA settlement,” HealthCareDive, Oct. 30, 2018, https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/chs-sees-massive-q3-net-loss-amid-weak-volume-aftershocks-of-hma-settlemen/540868/

[3] Brooke Murphy, “50 things to know about the hospital industry | 2017,” Becker’s Hospital Review, Jan. 25, 2017, https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/50-things-to-know-about-the-hospital-industry-2017.html

[4] Áine Cain, “Walmart is building ‘town centers’ in its parking lots – and it could redefine the one-stop shop,” Business Insider, Oct. 26, 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/walmart-town-centers-parking-lots-2018-10

[5] Kelly Gooch, “27% of families are putting off medical care because of costs, survey finds,” Becker’s Hospital Review, Oct. 30, 2018, https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/27-of-families-are-putting-off-medical-care-because-of-costs-survey-finds.html

[6] Gooch, “27% of families,” Becker’s Hospital Review, Oct. 30, 2018, https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/27-of-families-are-putting-off-medical-care-because-of-costs-survey-finds.html

[7] American Hospital Association, “Achieving Price Transparency for Consumers: A Toolkit for Hospitals,”: “Preparing for Price Transparency: A Five-Point Checklist,” Healthcare Financial Management Association, http://www.ahacommunityconnections.org/content/14transparency-5ptchecklist.pdf

[8] Jacqueline LaPointe, “4 Strategies for Providers to Improve Hospital Price Transparency,” RevCycleIntelligence, June 4, 2018, https://revcycleintelligence.com/news/4-strategies-for-providers-to-improve-hospital-price-transparency

 

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