Seems like an innocuous question/statement. But it’s a question that can be fraught with staff unease, unexpected healthcare consumer resentment, missed opportunity and bad PR if it is not handled correctly.It’s not a question of whether not you should ask that question as a healthcare provider. No margin, no mission. There are very appropriate reasons for asking, and includes walking a fine line with tax exempt status and the legal requirement of caring for all who come through the doors seeking medical treatment. The real question is how is the organization preparing to engage the newly insured, current patients and the healthcare consumer making choices in which healthcare providers to engage?
How one handles the question goes beyond staff training, scripting and role playing. The conversation and ask begins well before anyone ever sets foot in door of the healthcare provider. It may be that the healthcare provider has lost the potential advantage in securing the high ground in this part of the healthcare reform equation.Individuals and families are selecting high deductible plans to reduce their premium costs. Employers are going to defined contributions, creating private exchanges, increasing employee contributions for not only the cost of insurance, but the deducible and co-pays as well. And even the newly insured that could be eligible for the expanded Medicaid programs will still have to meet spend down requirements of the Medicaid program before full coverage will kick in. Just because the program is expanded for initial eligibility requirements doesn’t mean in the least that the base regulations of the program have changed.
Several months ago I wrote about the opportunity in the market place that healthcare providers had in educating the healthcare consumer abut exchanges, plans and choices. It was at that moment in time that those discussions could have begun with the process of the payment ask, connecting it to high deductible plans and general changes in how they will pay for healthcare. Little if any activity on the part of hospitals, health systems and other providers recognized the new dynamics and took marketing and PR steps to head off the coming challenges.Now that the ship has sailed, how are you going to actively take control of the conversation and educate the healthcare consumer before they ever walk in the door seeking treatment? This is about setting realistic expectations in the context of experience as well as establishing the role and responsibility of the healthcare consumer in all of the discussions.
Easier said than done and we all know that. But with all the issues around the exchanges and failures therein, the news that people are selecting high deductible plans and the coming sticker shock because they really don’t understand what they are buying, you have the chance to hit the reset button and start anew.So instead of advertising those wellness bus tours, free gifts for a colonoscopy or even connecting with all those high quality physicians on staff without outcomes transparency in any of it, maybe it should be meaningfully engaging the healthcare consumer about the real cost of high deductible plans, prices, the value of the medical service and their accountability and portion of cost they will bear?
The risk is because as we all know, that the process for asking for payment after the fact or even when someone walks in the door and is sitting at the desk, is not going to go well and there will be human error. As a tax exempt healthcare provider, you will be the evil greedy healthcare provider, and it's a perceptional battle that is unwinnable.
Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views read in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. These views are my own. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.