Consumers Pushing Hard for Better Digital Bill Paying Arrangements

A new research study has concluded that consumers are getting far choosier about their digital interactions with their providers than they had been before.

The survey, which was conducted by Forrester Research and commissioned by patient financial management vendor Cedar with 1,502 online respondents over the age of 18 who had visited a health care provider in the last 12 months and were responsible for paying the bill for their visit.

As a backdrop, it’s worth noting that consumer expectations for their digital interactions with providers have risen dramatically over the past year. For example, 28% of consumers reported having switched or stopped going to a health care provider because of a poor digital experience, which represents a whopping 40% increase since 2019.

Cedar’s general point – which is still valid despite its vested interest in the results – is consumers are becoming increasingly more aggravated with the ways digital billing arrangements are being handled.  Plus, the survey highlights some of the ways patient billing is being impacted by the rising cost of care:

Source: 2020 Healthcare Consumer Experience Study (Cedar/Forrester)

In recent years, consumers have become very motivated to use digital tools when handling their healthcare interactions   For example, the study notes, patient text message use with physicians grew over 200% over the past 12 months, an email and patient portal use has grown by 82% and 34% respectively.

Given the extent to which the digital relationship between patients and providers has matured, it’s hardly surprising that patients are demanding more from financial interactions.

Their demands include wanting the ability to make a digital payment through a portal (60%), having more options to view and pay a bill (28%), and having more clarity on what they owe and why, including insurance coverage details (35%).

As with last year, the survey found that nearly one-third of patients aren’t happy with the level of effort the providers have put into improving the billing and payment processes.  What’s more common, nearly 70% of consumers said they consider it important that health care providers offer a more customized experience around communication, bill payment, and scheduling.

Now, the pandemic has arrived, and with the chaos it has brought to care processes, it has also increased phone aspects of the billing process which already weren’t in great shape.

In response to all of this, consumers have expressed clear interest In some key areas of digital care. For example, 44% want to see telemedicine options maintained, 41% would like to see digital forms and communications deployed, and 37% want to see touchless check-in options put in place.

Ultimately, consumers are contrasting their care process with services offered by companies like Netflix, Uber and Amazon, which they see as offering smoother and more intuitive experiences.

Among the key steps providers could tackle to address consumers’ digital preferences include making it easier to schedule appointments online (26%), making it more convenient to prepare for appointments (22%), and allowing patients to check-in for appointments using a virtual waiting room (23%) as is already possible with restaurants.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.