Experian Health has released a follow-up survey on patient access to explore how patient and provider attitudes have changed in the last six months and what this means for the future of healthcare. The report, titled The State of Patient Access 2.0, shows how patient and provider attitudes regarding patient access changed since the first survey in November 2020 published by Experian Health. The data reveals that patients feel more positive about their healthcare experience while providers continue the digital momentum to meet patients’ needs. What does this mean for the future of healthcare?
Patients seem less stressed now, and providers are looking to take everything that worked during the pandemic and incorporate it into a better engagement experience.
Survey Overview – The State of Patient Access 2.0
In November 2020, Experian Health conducted a survey to capture consumer and provider attitudes regarding patient access. The intent was to identify common ground and where disagreement might create issues — or opportunities. According to the survey, consumers welcomed “contactless care” and demanded more convenience and control over the nonclinical aspects of care at the height of the pandemic. Providers embraced the acceleration toward digitalization, though implementation remained challenging for many. This six-month follow-up revisited these questions with the second survey in June 2021 to learn what, if anything, has changed.
This white paper compares answers from the first State of Patient Access survey with those in Experian Health’s State of Patient Access 2.0. Overall, the comparison survey suggests that patients surveyed are more satisfied today with healthcare services than in November 2020. A majority (86%) of those surveyed feel more confident about returning to healthcare facilities than 81 percent in the prior study. Many (40%) patients that canceled a procedure due to the pandemic have already rescheduled and undergone the procedure compared to 13 percent last year. Additionally, concerns about utilizing online services declined among survey respondents from 37 percent to 29 percent.
The Continued Adoption of Digital Solutions
Convenience has become the new currency. Over the past decade, consumers have grown accustomed to a seamless digital experience. Booking appointments, completing preregistration, and making payments online is the new baseline, setting up healthcare expectations similar to other service sectors. At the same time, health care consumers (patients) have taken a more active role in educating themselves and directly managing their health.
So what are the outcomes of this survey?
There’s no going back. Convenience is no longer optional.
73% of consumers want to be able to schedule their appointments online.
A continuing increase of digitalization of patient access tools.
Improving the patient experience is a top priority for 93% of providers.
Improving access to care also means improving provider access to preauthorization checks.
More than 50% of providers find it challenging to keep track of changing pre-authorization requirements.
Digital tools to fast-track financial recovery.
14% of consumers felt their final healthcare cost differed significantly from estimates – down from more than 50% in the first survey.
Healthcare consumerism should empower consumers to be involved in their health care decisions throughout the patient journey. With more than 80% of consumers researching their healthcare options, new technologies provide consumers new ways to live healthily and manage certain conditions. Scheduling, registration, cost estimates, securing patient identities, data protection, contactless payments, active patient engagement, and financial and operational stability – all of these topics were addressed in the survey, making this white paper a valuable resource for strategy and planning beyond the pandemic.
Experian Health Survey Findings
Patients still want flexibility, control, and convenience — providers want to oblige
Given the level of consumer demand, self-scheduling shouldn’t be ignored. This simple implementation can reduce costly administration errors and denied claims, reduces no-shows and gaps in care. For healthcare organizations, there is no one size fits all solution to which patient communication tool is best fit for their patient population. According to the Experian Health survey, providers appear to be continuing patient portal and text message services, while the use of email, mail and in-person channels has increased.
Digital technology provides flexibility and can support a multichannel approach, allowing providers to select the best solution for their patient population. The survey shows patient/consumer demand for a flexible, friction-free healthcare experience won’t disappear in a post-COVID19 pandemic market.
… they’ve [patients/consumers] come to expect the same quick and convenient options as they might find when shopping or banking online. Providers really stepped up their digital games over the last year, and now is the time to learn from what worked, improve what didn’t and double down on creating a better consumer digital experience.Sanju Pratap, Vice President of Consumer Products at Experian Health
Patients are comfortable coming in for care, but providers are worried about volumes
The return to in-person care poses operational and financial hurdles for health care services. In 2020, patients felt nervous about visiting healthcare services in person for fear of infection. The most recent Experian Health survey suggests a settling of anxiety. More are confident that their provider has created a safe environment, and canceled procedures have dropped by half. In the 2020 survey, 58% of consumers said they’d wait until COVID-19 subsides before rescheduling, but now only 19% are choosing to wait.
Immediate scaling of remote telehealth services has leveled off, but virtual care will be a permanent feature. Predictably, the demand for some remote services has dipped as pandemic restrictions have relaxed. A notable survey finding is that only 49% of providers think telehealth will become a permanent feature, down from 59% in November 2020. However, while demand from patients has declined, a third still wants to speak to providers remotely.
Price transparency has improved, but coverage confusion remains
- The number of patients who rank financial hardship as a top barrier to care has halved over the last six months, though knowing costs are covered by insurance remains their top healthcare priority.
- Price transparency remains essential, and the accuracy gap between estimated and final costs seems to be closing.
- This year, providers are less concerned about collecting payments from consumers, with those very or highly concerned decreasing from 50% to 41%. Their main concern is whether patients know if they’re covered or not.
- More providers are offering alternative payment methods, and upfront billing estimates to make payment easier for patients.
Price transparency remains a top priority for patients and providers. Price transparency remains necessary to patients and seems to have improved in the last six months. Fewer patients/consumers are surprised by their final bill. Six months ago, more than half had final costs that deviated significantly from estimates. Now, this figure is 14%.
According to the Experian Health survey, many of the findings in these surveys point to digital patient access as a critical strategy for financial recovery. Using digital tools to fast-track financial recovery, providers have introduced more payment options at the start of the patient journey. In turn, this gives patients control over how and when they pay and minimizes the risk of late and missed payments. Implementing digital tools to fast-track financial recovery goes beyond simply providing a better patient experience; the technology enables greater efficiency, automation of manual tasks, and market differentiation.
Consumer satisfaction rests on better data quality and security
- Secure access to patient portals is still ranked as the most crucial feature of non-clinical healthcare services for patients.
- 43% of providers have improved security for remote access services, compared to 37% previously.
- Identity management has been identified as a gap by providers.
- Patients still welcome proactive outreach by providers, but more say their providers fail to do this, and 45% of providers say inaccurate or incomplete patient data gets in the way.
- More than half of providers are focusing on identifying and serving at-risk populations.
Just like many other aspects of our daily life, digital health information also makes us—and our personal information—vulnerable to data breaches. Data security and privacy concerns are the fourth findings in the Experian Health State of Patient Access 2.0 survey. Concerns for data security and privacy goes beyond recent large-scale US cyberattacks or the Colonial Pipeline that occurred earlier this year.
Big healthcare data has considerable potential to improve patient outcomes, predict outbreaks of epidemics, gain valuable insights, avoid preventable diseases, reduce the cost of healthcare delivery and improve the quality of life in general. However, deciding on the allowable uses of data while preserving security and patient’s right to privacy is a difficult task. Big data, no matter how useful for the advancement of medical science and vital to the success of all healthcare organizations, can only be used if security and privacy issues are addressed.Big healthcare data: preserving security and privacy
The Next Generation of Digital Health Tools
Digital is becoming so intertwined with health care that it’s now to be expected by consumers. Health systems are under tremendous pressure to provide convenient access to care for patients while tightly managing operational costs. Consumer loyalty is a significant driver of health system profitability. Still, unfortunately for hospitals and health systems, the overall brand preference among healthcare consumers continues to decline, from 31% in 2018 to 36% in 2020. While many customers lack a clear choice for a given healthcare brand, this is likely not a reflection of negative care experiences.
As digital technologies become more of the norm in healthcare, there’s an opportunity to rethink how to do healthcare by embedding the changes that have worked well during the pandemic. As informed consumerism rises, health systems will need to shift how they attract, engage, and treat new patients. This expectation is why the research, development, testing, and deploying of novel digital health technologies and tools should be considered long-term investments that will net great returns.
Confidence in digital health technologies’ and tools’ potential continues to progress as health systems continue to invest in a more digital health care experience – focusing on connecting with, communicating with, and monitoring patients outside the health system’s walls. The rise of innovative digital health technologies has increased the ease of capturing, using, and sharing Patient-Generated Health Data (PGHD). These digital health technologies can empower patients to capture, use, and share PGHD to better manage their health and to participate in their health care.
About Experian Health
Industry-leading solutions for revenue cycle management, identity management, patient engagement and care management. Part of Experian, the world’s leading information services company, Experian Health serves more than 60 percent of U.S. hospitals and more than 7,700 medical practices, labs, pharmacies and other healthcare providers with data-driven platforms and insights that help our clients make smarter business decisions, deliver a better bottom line and establish strong patient relationships.
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