Health systems are making significant progress in transforming the patient financial experience, leveraging digital innovation to give patients more engagement options and payment plan choices.
“Creating a successful consumer financial experience in healthcare requires constant optimization to make processes as simple and transparent as possible,” says Tomer Shoval, SVP sales, strategic accounts, and business development at Flywire.
Learn from Shoval the history of innovation in the patient financial experience space, what makes a health system innovative, and his advice to those looking to begin their digital transformation journey.
Q: You have been a leader who has brought greater levels of consumerism into the healthcare financial arena, having experienced the need firsthand. Can you share the story of how you got into this space?
Shoval: I was on a company's core team that built the first largest shopping comparison engine during the internet boom. Solving consumer problems in a meaningful way was an incredible journey, and I never thought I would leave that space. However, after a weeklong trip to Mexico that was supposed to be a fantastic vacation, I changed my mind. My entire family became very sick, and the trip turned into a nightmare. When we arrived back home, an ambulance took my daughter and me to the hospital. Two months after our recovery, my wife and I faced a pile of paperwork, including 'explanation of benefits' forms and medical bills. It was a stressful and cumbersome experience because of the volume of paperwork and phone calls that weren't answering basic questions such as, "What is our balance?" and, "Why do we need to pay for this when we have insurance?" That was the moment it hit me that the system was broken, and someone needed to fix it.
While I didn't have healthcare experience, I knew a lot about the consumer experience and the technology required to build a successful e-commerce platform. I co-founded a company that created a healthcare technology platform that optimizes digital payments and the patient financial experience. We were able to show providers that patients want the same experience in healthcare that they have when they book a hotel or buy something on Amazon. Phone calls and paper no longer work. In early 2020, we joined forces with Flywire, and the timing is perfect—consumer-driven healthcare has ramped up, and people are starting to pay a lot more attention to their healthcare expenses.
Q: There has been a deep history of innovation in the patient financial experience field since it began. What are some of the more significant advancements that helped change the face of financial care?
Shoval: When I look at the financial experience field, there have been three significant waves of innovation. The first acknowledged that patients are consumers who prefer to take action on their own at their convenience and by computer or mobile phone. The patient's financial experience was straightforward and didn't require a patient to have a paper bill with an account number. Instead, patients authenticated their accounts online. During this era, the percent of patients paying online jumped from nearly 10% to 80%.
In the second wave, providers focused on different ways to engage with patients through digital methods of communication, including text, chat, email, and phone. Patients were allowed to access their accounts through a portal with a single sign-on or a provider app.
The most recent evolution has been applying machine learning and data analytics to create personalized experiences for the patient. These technologies tailor the financial experience to the patient's specific needs accounting for preferred methods of communication, the patient's capacity to meet their financial responsibility, and the financial options available to them based on that capacity-to-pay. Consider Netflix and Amazon Video; they use data and algorithms to know what you like and tailor the experience to you, creating different experiences based on your personalized preferences. We can do the same when it comes to billing and engagement with patients.
Q: Having worked with so many health systems to create a better financial journey for their patients, are there any commonalities between them? What makes an innovative health system?
Shoval: We work with many large health systems whose leaders are setting a new tone of innovation and consumer financial engagement. They are not afraid to create and execute a new vision, and they are data-driven and constantly looking at results. Successful providers also realize that having a top-notch clinical workforce is no longer enough to attract and retain patients. As a result, they are turning the patient financial experience into a competitive advantage in their markets.
Q: What advice do you have for health systems looking to innovate and bring this type of consumerism into their own financial experience?
Shoval: It starts with building leadership teams who thrive on change, are focused on the future, and constantly seek to create a better consumer experience. These organizations must look at everything they do and challenge themselves to figure out how to modernize and digitize the patient financial experience to stay in front of consumer trends. They should also look at the success factors of other health systems that have been early adopters in the patient financial experience movement. At the same time, hospital leaders are busy, so it doesn’t make sense to do everything on your own. Look for a partner with the right capabilities, including one that will develop a roadmap that covers pre-service to post-service, integrate with other partners, and help connect all the dots in your vision.