3 ways to give consumers the payment system they want

The healthcare industry must overhaul its payment system to align with consumer demand, according to a new report from PwC's Health Research Institute (HRI).

As the dynamics of healthcare purchasing shift, patients have become consumers, according to the report, and to survive, healthcare organizations must respond to consumer demand for payment systems that are quick, reliable, convenient and transparent. Consumer reviews are mixed for the healthcare billing/payment status quo, with between 21 and 30 percent dissatisfied with hospitals on convenience, reliability and affordability and more than 31 percent unhappy with hospital transparency, according to the research.

More specifically, the report found:

  • Affluent consumers and patients expressed the lowest satisfaction with the healthcare billing and payment system, and half of consumers in poor or fair health were dissatisfied with affordability and price transparency.
  • In assessing hospitals, millennials give far more weight to billing practices than does the general population. Millennials are also more likely to seek better deals, base their decisions on value and challenge medical bills. Earlier research also found millennials prefer more efficient delivery, upfront price estimates and checking insurance information online before making a decision.
  • New entrants into the market work to avoid the claims-based payment system, particularly in matters of primary care or chronic illness.

To incorporate the convenience, quality, transparency, affordability, reliability and seamlessness consumers value, the report recommends three strategies:

Keep it simple: Consumers are often confused about their insurance benefits and medical bills, and providers can simplify their experience with steps such as mobile apps, aggregated billing and online payment sites.

Speed up the transition to electronic formats: Healthcare lags behind other industries in migrating to digital platforms, which remains "one of the system's most critical bottlenecks," the report states.

Expand payment options: Consumers often delay or abandon medical bills due to the complexity and opacity of the system, so giving them as many possibilities for payment is key to providers avoiding bad debt, according to the report.

To learn more:
- read the report (registration required)