Knowing the right time and the right words to say during financial conversations with patients can mean the difference between them continuing with care or walking out the door. A major part of this is keeping in mind what patients value, and how you can use that to help optimize their journey.
A large amount of the patient experience is emotional, especially when it comes to cost. One of the most important things a team can do is look at the financial process through the patient’s eyes — from beginning to end. This will help ensure the patient feels heard by a staff who is empowered and trained to positively impact not only the patient’s clinical outcome, but financial experience as well.
To help create fewer barriers when it comes to discussing cost, the team at Medical Eye Center in Medford and Grants Pass, Ore., uses emotional intelligence throughout the journey to build a better rapport with patients. By understanding and looking for emotional cues, the team can better interpret when a patient is hesitant about the financial aspect of care and reframe their approach to the discussion.
This article presents an example of how Medical Eye Center takes an “all hands on deck” attitude to patient financing. Through constant listening and learning, the clinic implemented the following best practices.
Patients in need of vision care are most likely to go online first to locate and select facilities as well as interact with prospective and current providers, according to research from the 2016 CareCredit Path to Purchase study. Since this is most likely the first impression for a practice, look at ways to be reassuring, compassionate and emotionally supportive.
Building rapport is the first step. For example, when patients call, we ask what’s going on in their lives that prompted them to call our clinic. Did they lose a contact lens? Do they have a wedding coming up and need LASIK? Responding in a compassionate way builds trust and understanding.
GET TO KNOW YOUR PATIENT
The way the staff interacts with patients has a powerful impact on quality of care and service delivered. A supportive, empathetic and understanding staff looks at a patient differently. Medical Eye Center’s doctors and technicians know it’s important to give the patient control by paying attention to what they want. For instance, some patients are more nervous and may be comforted by having more information. For others, the best way to open a conversation could be a simple question, like, “What is the most important information for you to talk about today?”
Emotional intelligence role-playing can equip the staff with tools and resources to learn more about a patient and customize each experience. Practice staff, no matter their position, should be prepared to listen and respond to patient cues such as uneasy body language or a change in voice volume and tempo, which may signal cost is a concern.
If cost is a barrier, offering financing can help patients stay focused on their vision and eye health needs. For example, a patient might say, “Oh, that sounds expensive.” The staff can explain the value of the recommendation because of the quality of the treatment protocol and offer patient financing options to help them accomplish all their vision goals.
PUT COSTS INTO PERSPECTIVE
For many patients, even a little uncertainty concerning their financial responsibility for vision care is enough to keep them from pursuing treatment. When patients know that special financing is available, it can often help patients move forward with the vision services and products they need and want with ease.
An effective way to implement financing is to offer it to everybody. Financing should be introduced as an option for all patients, not just those who express that they have a monetary concern and could benefit.
A staff member at Medical Eye Center might say, “Your investment is $XX for LASIK. Let me tell you what your payment options are. We accept cash, all major credit cards and promotional financing with the CareCredit credit card. What payment option works best for you?”
When the staff understands the benefits of different financing options, they are better equipped to present those choices to patients. It’s best to offer every avenue for the health of the patient.
A team approach to the financial discussion can also help ease the patient into the conversation. A practice that learns together can better educate patients or implement new services into the practice. For example, Medical Eye Center works closely with representatives of CareCredit, a health, wellness and personal care credit card. These representatives observe, report and train the staff on how to have successful financial conversations with patients.
Role-playing and training can expose the staff to different approaches that will help them see the consult through the patient’s eyes. By making the whole team accountable for financial conversations, practices can offer an enhanced patient experience.
Patients also worry about whether they will be approved for financing. Medical Eye Center provides iPads in the waiting area so patients can privately and conveniently apply and get an answer regarding the application within seconds.
The key to discussing financing options is understanding what each patient wants. Succeeding at this takes a dedicated, highly trained staff that understands how to integrate conversations about health and money throughout the patient’s eye-care experience. By focusing on each individual, providers can go above and beyond to create satisfied patients. OM