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Why Payment Options Should 'Resonate' With Patients

Analysis  |  By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   April 02, 2019

Use segmentation to tailor payment options to patient's needs and preferences.

Who are your patients and what do they need? That's a key question not only for providing care, but for getting paid.

One way to find out is through behavioral segmentation, which seeks to understand patient preferences according to factors like age, habits, and preferences.

Such insights allow hospitals to make patients financial offers that are "more likely to resonate with them," such as flexible payment plans and online bill pay, as well as how they want to engage in the financial process, such as via email, or statement, or text, Will Reilly, vice president of client and consumer marketing at VisitPay, said via email.

With this in mind, VisitPay conducted a national quantitative study to identify behaviors and attitudes around healthcare costs. It included one-on-one patient interviews and a survey of 1,734 adults.

It also applied clustering algorithms and machine learning techniques to define national consumer segments based on demographics, communication preferences, and financial behaviors.

From a cost of care and planning for care perspective, it found:

  • 56% of respondents said their healthcare visits were unplanned
  • Respondents rated insurance (84%) as the most important factor in choosing where to receive treatment, ahead of the reputation of a health system (75%); location was third (69%); cost (66%); and physician reputation (66%)
  • 67% of respondents did not obtain cost estimates
  • 57% said the health system didn’t offer information about costs/payment options ahead of treatment
  • 60% of respondents said they were treated for a health issue at an ER or urgent care clinic within the past 12 months
  • 65% of respondents said cost strongly influences their overall satisfaction with a health system or physician
  • Most patients prefer to pay their medical bills online, whether through the health system (34%) or through their bank account (33%)

The study also broke down respondents into five broad patient segments with distinct demographics, attitudes, and behaviors:

  • Solo Strivers: Racially diverse, primarily women, often parents, mostly under age 39, high out-of-pocket balances, cost big influence on care, want to finance medical bills
  • Seasoned & Receptive: 40 and older, empty-nesters, likes traditional outreach methods (phone and paper statements), tend not to research payment options online
  • Overextended Achievers: Full time workers, highest income, likely to own their homes, most likely to want online communications, ages 40-65
  • Self-Sufficient Sages: 65 and older, low out of pocket balances, have Medicare or low-deductible commercial plans, self-identify as dependable
  • Hearty & Carefree: Racially diverse, low income, under 39, mostly female, want online information, heavy social media users, lower out of pocket balances

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

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