Health spending in the U.S. has grown exponentially, ballooning to nearly 20 percent of the GDP in 2020. Despite the increased demand for healthcare, most medical practices are facing decreased revenues. The reason? An increasing amount of medical debt. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau reported that 20 percent of households — 65.9 million Americans — had medical debt in 2022.
In addition to the increasing number of past-due invoices, medical practices face the costly challenge of missed appointments. Most offices use outdated reminder tactics that are no longer effective, so patients — and their money — aren’t coming in the door.
These past-due invoices and no-shows might be symptoms of a poor patient experience. A healthy physician-patient relationship increases the chances of a patient keeping their appointment and working out a payment plan. A contact center solution can help medical practices face these challenges by enhancing patient communications and follow-up strategies.
Reducing the Number of Unpaid Invoices
Given that 20 percent of households have medical debt, medical practices lose nearly one-fifth of their revenue to outstanding invoices. But debt isn’t the only culprit: practices lose additional revenue to costly reminder strategies.
According to Consumer Action, 74 percent of American consumers prefer to receive paper medical bills, so this is how most practices deliver their invoices. Unfortunately, these paper reminders can be expensive to produce and mail.
With increasing postage costs, many medical practices have transitioned to email for invoice reminders. Unfortunately, what they gain in cost-savings, they lose in efficiency. The tech trade publication, Earthweb, found that most people only open 20 to 40 percent of their emails. That’s if the email reaches the patient’s inbox — some email reminders are delivered to spam folders.
Sometimes unpaid invoices have nothing to do with whether the office sent a reminder or if the patient received the reminder — some patients simply can’t pay. In fact, more than half (58 percent) of accounts sent to collections involve medical debt. Rather than contacting the practice to set up a payment plan, patients tend to push bills aside until the office reaches out to collect payment.
How a Contact Center Solution Can Help
Many medical practices have found success using contact center solutions to remind patients of their outstanding invoices. Contact center platforms like GoContact offer customizable scripts, omnichannel capabilities, and automated dialing that helps collect payments quickly and efficiently.
Customized scripts can help guide employees and agents through the process of creating payment plans to meet patients’ needs. These scripts can also help contact center agents educate patients on their options and avoid collections, bringing previously lost revenue back into the practice and improving overall patient satisfaction.
Decreasing the Number of Missed Appointments
According to the Journal of Family Medicine and Disease Prevention, people miss approximately one-third of their doctor’s appointments, and 37 percent of these no-shows occur because the patient forgot and didn’t receive a reminder from the doctor’s office.
It’s clear that appointment reminders are important, but the solution isn’t simple. The healthcare industry still faces staffing shortages from the pandemic, leaving many medical practices short-staffed. As a result, reminder calls are often on the back burner.
Staffing shortages may be partly to blame for the increasing number of no-shows, but contact methods are also a factor. The traditional appointment reminder process is time-consuming and laborious, and it usually ends with employees leaving a voicemail. Unfortunately, the alternatives — mail and email — also lack efficiency and effectiveness.
- Mailing appointment reminders is inefficient and unaffordable. Postage rates have gone up 20 percent in the last five years, not to mention it is time-consuming and labor-intensive to design, print, label, stamp, and drop off mail at the post office.
- While emailing patients is relatively low-cost and easy, it’s becoming ineffective. A study by Influencer Marketing Hub found that people open less than 22 percent of emails from their healthcare providers, meaning that email reminders only reach one in four patients.
How a Contact Center Solution Can Help
Staff shortages and overburdened employees mean that calling, emailing, and mailing patients about their appointments is no longer a priority. A contact center solution like GoContact can help medical practices improve no-show rates.
GoContact is a contact center as a service (CCaaS) solution that enables healthcare offices to reach patients on their preferred channels: call, email, webchat, Facebook, WhatsApp, and more. The cloud based contact center solution can even help with follow-ups thanks to automated dialing, integrated patient records, and easy call logging.
GoContact can help practices personalize and automate their outreach efforts, optimize the appointment reminder process, reduce the costs associated with missed visits, and improve profitability.
Improving the Patient Experience
Every patient interaction — even reminders about upcoming appointments or overdue bills — contributes to the overall patient experience. Quick, informative, and frequent communications from healthcare teams allow patients to build a positive relationship with the practice, which enhances the reputation of the office, increases the likelihood of patients recommending them to others, boosts patients’ willingness to pay upfront or work out a payment plan, and reinforces their obligation to show up for appointments.
The primary complaint from patients is that their experience varies depending on the communication channel they use. These inconsistencies can be frustrating and disappointing for patients, and employees may struggle with juggling various messages from an increasing number of channels.
Here are a few possible reasons for the inconsistency:
- Staff training on each channel may vary.
- Scripting tools aren’t readily available for agents, causing misinformation and delayed resolutions.
- Communication channels are answered with varying urgency.
- Most channels don’t offer an omnichannel view of the patient’s history or previous interactions.
How a Contact Center Solution Can Help
According to Deloitte, 50 to 75 percent of patient interactions happen virtually, making it imperative to invest in digital solutions. With a CCaaS solution like GoContact, medical practices can integrate the patient experience across multiple communication channels and increase patient and employee satisfaction. GoContact’s omnichannel functionality coordinates communications and provides a centralized platform for all transactions, interactions, records, and notes, allowing medical practices to serve patients better and offer a smoother, more pleasant experience.
Implementing a contact center solution not only enables practices to meet patients where they are virtually, but advanced training tools allow agents to assist patients effectively. GoContact’s Agent Assist scripting tool, for example, enables the creation of dynamic scripts to help guide agents through calls, leading them to correct responses more efficiently while also training them in proper call handling and problem resolution.
A Contact Center Solution Can Heal Many Ailments
While a CCaaS solution can’t cure physical ailments, it can remedy poor communication strategies and help improve the patient experience. Updating outreach methods frees up time to focus on patient care, and improving the patient experience and effectively communicating with patients allows medical practices to recoup lost revenue from unpaid invoices.
Contact us to learn how medical practices can improve patient communications with GoContact.