"Technology can play a huge role in helping consumers understand their plans, their benefits, and the amount they must pay out of pocket," added Deborah Lelinski, Director Product Management at Ontario Systems, which sponsored the roundtable event. "Right now, it's very difficult to realistically predict the cost of service when the complexity leads us to answer with 'It depends.' "
Meanwhile, online education has its benefits, but face-to-face interactions might be important as well, Yoesle said. "As much as I want to push this education and information to the Web, I think we'll start hosting workshops and using kiosks to answer questions about benefits and plans and then push those FAQs to the Web."
Richard O'Donnell, vice president of payer strategies and contracting at Trinity Health also noted that insurance exchanges could take on the role of interpreting benefit design.
Even so, said Timothy Reiner, vice president of revenue management at Adventist Health System, "we're still going to have to engage the patient in different ways once those exchanges become more prevalent in the various states in 2014. It may be online portals or other strategies. There is a lot we don't know, but clearly one of the tenets of meaningful use is to engage the patient more online in their care—including their financial responsibility."
2. Estimating payments
When you walk out of a dentist's office, the person at the front desk has a pretty good idea what you'll owe—and it's rare a patient walks out the door without paying at least part of it.