Building Patient Relationships Brings Long-Term Benefits for Payers

Plan members who have a satisfactory patient experience are more likely to pay their bills. Patient engagement is traditionally left up to providers, but there are steps payers can take to enhance the patient experience and increase their willingness to pay.

blog image

As patients, providers, and payers try to emerge from the shadows of the pandemic, it’s difficult to focus on the bright spots it left in its wake. But it did shine a light on some areas of healthcare that deserve more attention, such as patient engagement. Patient engagement is not only a responsibility of providers; payers have a role in engagement as well, and it can enhance their relationships with both patients and providers.

Healthcare disruption during the pandemic

COVID-19 disrupted healthcare in countless ways. It hit providers in their pocketbooks because of canceled appointments and nonemergency procedures, caused gaps in patient care that proved detrimental to patient health, and created rifts in healthcare relationships. Because access to healthcare was diminished, patients with chronic conditions often got worse, and those with undetected problems didn’t receive necessary diagnosis and treatment. The increased use of telehealth filled some of the gaps, but it did little to preserve or enhance patient engagement.

Payer investment in member engagement brings long-term benefits

COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on everyone, and health plan members are feeling the personal stress and financial impact of the crisis. In fact, some members may hesitate to schedule a doctor visit if they have unpaid medical bills, which can lead to additional health problems.

Many providers and payers find it difficult to pressure patients for payments: They feel it may damage their relationships, and that’s often true. But it’s also true that satisfied patients are more likely to pay their bills, stay in the health plan, and recommend it to others. So, by reaching out and engaging with members, payers can increase their chances of maintaining relationships and getting paid.

Engagement strategies

The first thing payers must remember is one size does not fit all. Every member has different preferences, beliefs, and expectations. Data and analytics bring a great deal of understanding and insight, so payers can gear their approach and messaging accordingly. Other strategies to improve member engagement and relationships include:

  • Using text messages for remote patient monitoring of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
  • Proactively connecting members with the right resources to help coordinate care.
  • Enabling members to stay connected and informed between visits.
  • Employing remote patient monitoring technologies for chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes glucose monitoring) to address symptoms early.
  • Working with providers to get billing estimates and reaching out to patients to proactively help them understand treatment costs and make appropriate choices.
  • Offering “earn-back” programs that provide members who adopt healthy habits with financial incentives through reduced premiums.

These engagement tips can help payers and providers regain some of the personalization and patient trust they may have lost during the pandemic. For additional information and strategies, contact the experts at TruBridge.

Written by John Gibson
TruBridge Sr. Director, Revenue Cycle Solutions