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Q&A: Dignity Health, OODA Health Talk Payment Pilot Expansion

Analysis  |  By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   July 29, 2019

"Dignity no longer needs to collect from patients, and patients enjoy access to consolidated bills and convenient payment and financing options."

Tech startup OODA Health is expanding its real-time healthcare payments pilot program with Dignity Health.

The pilot launched last year in an effort to give consumers a retail-like payment experience, while reducing the burdensome administrative costs of billing.

HealthLeaders checked in with Sophie Pinkard, OODA Health's cofounder and head of product, and Steve Scharmann, vice president of finance and revenue cycle management at Dignity Health (a part of new health system CommonSpirit Health) via email to get an update on the pilot.

HealthLeaders: Where is the Dignity Health/OODA Health pilot now? How is it functioning?

Steve Scharmann, Dignity Health: The pilot is currently underway at Mercy Gilbert Hospital and Chandler Regional Hospital, with plans to begin at two additional hospitals and other facilities this fall.

Our initial goal has been to leverage OODA's technology and processes to create a positive experience for our patients by increasing collaboration with payers. Through initial conversations with patients, we are hearing positive reactions to the new payment processes. 

Sophie Pinkard, OODA Health: We are live with BCBS-AZ members at several Dignity facilities in the Phoenix area. At those locations, OODA Health enables BCBS-AZ to pay Dignity for the patient portion of a bill at the same time they pay the insurance portion, and then OODA helps BCBS-AZ consolidate patients' bills across all participating providers.

Patients can pay via our modern payment platform or set up a 0% interest payment plan. Dignity no longer needs to collect from patients, and patients enjoy access to consolidated bills and convenient payment and financing options.

HL: Where, when, and how is it expanding?

Scharmann: Applying lessons learned while using the program in our real clinical settings, our goal is to scale this program across our system. We currently have plans to expand the pilot to two additional hospitals and other facilities this fall.

Pinkard: We are expanding the pilot to other Dignity facilities as well as other providers in Arizona, with particular emphasis on the provider groups (hospitalists, radiologists, anesthesiologists, etc.) that are typically involved in hospital care, so that, for the first time, patients can receive a single bill, rather than multiple disparate bills, from all the providers involved in a single inpatient stay.

In addition, we are expanding to additional Dignity facilities in the Sacramento area this fall in partnership with Blue Shield of California.

HL: Why is the pilot expanding? What has success looked like so far?

Scharmann: Dignity Health understands how a patient's overall experience with health care affects their healing journey. The last thing they need is the stress of anticipating a confusing medical bill.

By expanding pilot sites with OODA across our system, we can continue to provide our patients with the highest-quality care both within and outside of the walls of our hospitals.

Reactions from patients have been overwhelmingly positive, expressing great satisfaction with having a detailed bill and with how easy the payment process is.

Pinkard: So far, we have primarily focused on delivering an outstanding experience to patients receiving bills, particularly through proactive outreach from our service center to ensure patients understand the bills they are receiving and are aware of all the payment and financing options OODA offers.

We've heard great feedback thus far from the patients taking part in our pilot.

HL: What hurdles has the pilot faced and how have you overcome them?

Scharmann: Introducing an entirely new way of billing for medical services can take some time to adjust to—not only for providers and payers, but also for patients.

As a provider, we know that leveraging the latest in technology holds great promise to help streamline what has traditionally been a cumbersome, confusing process for all involved.

And due to the willingness to make billing markedly easier for the patient, everyone at the table has been working hard to find solutions to any hurdles we may experience in the practical application of new processes. Working with OODA and our payer partners, we are excited to truly overhaul how patients pay for health services.

Pinkard: There have been several scenarios where patients were confused about which services they received and what they owed. We've been able to liaise between the provider and the payer, identifying issues quickly and freeing the patient from tiresome back-and-forth calls. 

HL: How is does this partnership work in a practical way? For revenue cycle staffers? For patients?

Scharmann: Our partnership is enabling us to streamline the administrative billing process with payers to allow patients to pay for their care as easily as they pay for everyday consumer transactions.  

We have replaced the need for each provider to send their own statement, which simplifies things for the patient. Our goal is to develop a single statement that requires a single payment from the patient for treatment from multiple providers.

Staffers no longer need to engage in patient billing activities, freeing them up to focus more on activities that contribute to a positive patient experience. They also have fewer electronic payments to post to the patient accounting system. 

Pinkard: OODA enables payers to pay providers for both the insurance portion and the patient portion of the service at the same time. This means that from revenue cycle staffers' perspectives, the patient has a $0 balance with the provider and no action is needed.

From patients' perspectives, they receive one, consolidated bill from their insurance company for services rendered by all the providers participating in the program, rather than multiple bills in different formats across those providers.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

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