In our ongoing series on rising patient out-of-pocket expenses, we’ve covered the specific trends happening around patient responsibility in surgical centers, behavioral health, dental services, cosmetic surgery, and veterinary services. In each respective area, practitioners and patients alike have had to make adjustments as outside the box as traveling abroad for cheaper procedures, to re-organizing back office personnel to focus more heavily on financial education of patients. Today we examine two high-level trends across the spectrum of specialty areas, and well as how our Curae solution aims to address changing behaviors.
Experts agree the overall effect of industry consolidation will impact patient costs, but for better or worse is still the subject of much debate. A 2017 American Hospital Association report argued that hospital mergers would result in greater access to capital and other resources, which in turn would create greater efficiencies and economies of scale. On the flip side, many have argued that simple supply and demand will dictate higher hospital costs. If an area is served by fewer providers, costs are more likely to go up with fewer patient alternatives, in particular highly specialized areas where there may not be much competition, to begin with. So who is right? With so many changes happening at once in healthcare, the picture is not yet clear, but will likely settle in the near future.
It’s largely assumed that shopping around for non-emergency healthcare services will continue to become more prevalent, in correlation with patient responsibility. After all, online shopping has made comparison shopping an art form, so why not healthcare as well? While that may still be true in the long-run, current data points to a population that is still hesitant to truly shop around. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, fewer than 1% of patients shop around for MRIs, a likely bellwether service in the non-emergency services realm. Even more interesting, they estimate the average patient may actually drive by as many as six lower-cost providers on their way to a more expensive MRI facility, often referred by their primary care physician. With a greater focus on cost transparency, will this trend eventually reverse itself? And if so, how rapid will the changes take place?
With the ability to be integrated directly into the patient intake process, our Curae solution can help practitioners address the sticky topic of patient financing upfront, decreasing bad debt from unpaid patient costs while providing a differentiator that could dissuade patients from “shopping” around to other providers. Presenting a variety of financing options with an initial soft credit pull, patients can begin to evaluate what may meet their needs from the get-go, at little to no risk. To begin the process of getting your practice on board, visit Curae.com today.