Just be transparent with me

June 29, 2017
Janette Wider,

At the 2017 Healthcare Financial Management Association’s (HFMA) ANI conference, I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss the financial side of the healthcare field with industry leaders. Admittedly, finance and revenue aren’t the first things that come to my mind when thinking about the industry. But … they probably should be.

I had the pleasure of speaking with TransUnion’s principal for healthcare revenue cycle management, Jonathan Wiik, and vice president for healthcare products, John Yount. “There are many reasons why more patients are struggling to make their healthcare payments in full, the most prominent of which are higher deductibles and the increase in patient responsibility from 10% to 30% over the last few years,” said Wiik. “This shift in healthcare payments has been taking place for well over a decade, but we are seeing more pronounced changes in how hospital bills are paid during just the last few years.”

“With millions of dollars in unpaid medical debt, hospitals have begun implementing new processes to prevent revenue leakage while also providing a better patient experience,” Yount added.

These comments sparked a discussion about whether or not I had been given financial transparency when receiving care. The answer is, yes … once. During a time I was having some medical issues, I was referred to several different specialists all around Florida. One office I visited took me into a tiny room with no windows to go over a “financial plan,” because at that time I was uninsured and this treatment wasn’t going to be cheap. The woman whose job it was to go over the options handed me a sheet of various tests the doctor insisted I have done. As I was reviewing this, I noticed there were a few tests that I already suffered through at another facility. I had the results sent over to where I was at the time and even confirmed they received them before the appointment started. Obviously, I questioned this and was told that I had to get them again … and of course, pay for them.

So, I told the woman I’d like to pay for what I owed them for the visit today and then I was leaving. To say she was surprised is an understatement. Maybe no one had ever reviewed what tests they were receiving. Maybe no one really questions what they are being charged for because the doctor says it’s necessary. Not me—I question everything. (Good thing I’m a journalist!) I think healthcare facilities are in for more questions from patients like me in the near future when the patient becomes the new payer.

Speaking of the patient becoming the new payer, Wiik recently wrote a book titled “Healthcare Revolution: The Patient is the New Payer.” The book covers shifts in coverage, technology, payment, and policy and how they are affecting healthcare financing and delivery. I received an advanced (signed!) copy at HFMA and am excited to read his take on the inevitable changes.

Honestly, I truly hope that more organizations and hospitals are transparent with their patients upfront. I’d like to know before anything gets done (life-saving procedures, aside) what it’s going to cost me and the financing plans available. Thankfully, I have insurance now but have a pretty high deductible. I want to know upfront about costs before I receive a bill in the mail for thousands of dollars three months later. Perhaps it’s my type A personality talking, but I like to have a plan for everything … and that includes my medical care and bills. I don’t know many people who don’t live on a budget, and the sooner providers realize this, the better off we’ll all be.

Overall, the HFMA show was great. I got to see a side of the health information technology field that is truly going to be flourishing with all the upcoming changes to our healthcare system in the United States. I’m interested to see where we’ll be a year from now. I know I’ll find out at HMFA/ANI 2018.

Thanks for reading. As always, I welcome your feedback at [email protected].