- The CVS Health Care Insights Survey revealed patients’ knowledge gap regarding healthcare costs and insurance coverage
- Providers have the duty to fill those knowledge gaps
- A unified communications platform makes it easier to share information with patients
CVS recently released its 2021 Health Care Insights Survey, in which it details what providers can learn from consumer insights about their healthcare journeys. There were some interesting takeaways regarding the cost of healthcare in the US, as well as patients’ understanding (or lack thereof) of their insurance.
Which takeaways should be of greatest interest to providers regarding patients’ comprehension of their insurance? Why should providers care?
Takeaways about healthcare affordability
There are some interesting (and saddening) takeaways about patients’ perceptions of healthcare affordability:
- Forty-two percent of patients haven’t visited a doctor when they had a minor illness or injury because of the cost
- Fifty percent of 18-34 year-olds haven’t visited a doctor because of the cost
- Thirty-one percent of patients don’t have a primary care physician due to cost (the good news is that this number has dropped from 45 percent reported in 2020)
- Two-thirds of patients expressed moderate to high concern over their ability to afford treatment for severe or rare illnesses
How familiar are patients with how to pay for medical care?
The other set of takeaways that are equally (if not more) concerning have to do with patients’ knowledge of paying for medical care. Here are some statistics from the CVS report:
- A quarter of respondents had low to no familiarity with how to pay for out-of-pocket costs they incur as a result of medical care
- Twenty-three percent said they couldn’t understand how to interpret their healthcare plans when it comes to out-of-pocket costs
- While 59 percent of consumers reported their primary care physicians do a very good or excellent job helping patients understand the costs of care, 61 percent noted their healthcare providers haven’t asked them about the affordability of healthcare or discussed available resources to assist with these costs
Why should healthcare providers care about patients’ understanding of healthcare and insurance costs?
Healthcare providers can make the argument that it’s the payers’ job to ensure the patient understands what their plan covers. After all, payers are the ones who are insuring these patients.
However, it’s a healthcare provider’s duty to ensure the patient has the appropriate level of health literacy. Health literacy is the degree to which an individual can find, understand, and use information and services to inform decisions and actions regarding healthcare for themselves and others.
Low health literacy, especially regarding health insurance coverage, can lead to negative effects for providers:
- Patients won’t come for follow-up appointments
- Patients might find another provider who will explain health insurance coverage to them
- Patients will put off receiving care until it’s either an emergency or they succumb to their illness or injury
What can healthcare providers do to help patients understand healthcare costs and insurance coverage?
Providers can take action to help patients understand healthcare costs and insurance coverage. Fortunately for them, technology is available to help them so the burden is lower for them and their staff.
What kind of technology can providers leverage to assist their patients? Healthcare communication tools make it easier for providers and their staff to share information. Specifically, unified communications platforms offer a number of benefits.
Unified communications platforms are a set of communication tools in a single platform, including:
- Video conference
- File sharing
- Screen sharing
Leveraging unified communications platforms to educate patients
Here’s how providers can leverage unified communications platforms to educate patients about healthcare costs and insurance:
- Creating a dedicated hotline to help patients
- Giving patients flexible communication options to reach out to providers
- Offering self-service options to patients to find information on their own
- Automating communications
Creating a dedicated hotline to help patients
Unified communications platforms can be utilized to create a contact center within your office. You can set up a dedicated hotline to address patient concerns regarding health insurance. With a dedicated hotline, your patients have a “safe” place to turn to where they can find information about their healthcare insurance and costs.
Giving patients flexible communication options to reach out to providers
Another benefit of unified communications is that they offer flexible communications to patients—telephony, video conference, and chat. In a multi-channel world, 40 percent of patients expect providers to offer a variety of digital communications.
With unified communications, patients can reach out to providers through the channel of their choice to receive the information they need about healthcare costs and insurance.
Offering self-service options to patients to find information on their own
Forrester analysts report that customers would rather use a knowledge base than talk to a human being. Unified communications platforms allow providers to set up a knowledge base so that patients can find information about healthcare costs and insurance on their own.
For patients who are tech-savvy but may lack health literacy skills, a knowledge base can be a low-pressure, welcoming way to find information on the subjects they need.
To show how unified communications platforms automate communications, we’ll illustrate with an example. James goes to the doctor to discuss the results of a routine blood test. It turns out his white blood cell count is elevated, and the doctor wants to do more tests.
This news alarms James, and he’s not in the right frame of mind to think about healthcare costs or insurance coverage after he leaves the office. However, he starts thinking about it when he gets home. To help James understand his costs, the provider sends an automated text message after the appointment with a link to more information about the next steps (including what it will cost him). James feels more confident about the process and the costs as a result.
Improve healthcare communications with RingCentral’s unified communications platform
RingCentral’s communications platform offers flexible communications options, self-service options, and automated communications to connect with and educate patients. To learn more, get a demo.
Originally published Sep 21, 2021, updated Sep 20, 2021