Investing in Patient Financial Care Pays Off for Mayo Clinic and Northwestern Medicine

Jane Weber Brubaker
June 2, 2017
44 Shares 610 Views

Brenda Schillinger, Vice Chair of Revenue Cycle at Mayo Clinic, and Mike Mullen, Director of Revenue Cycle at Northwestern Medicine in the Chicagoland area, were panelists in a recent Becker’s webinar, Impacts and Insights from Investing in Patient Financial Care. Both Mayo Clinic and Northwestern Medicine embrace the idea that patient experience extends beyond clinical care to all touchpoints, including how patients pay their bills. And patients are paying more of their bills out-of-pocket than ever before. If bills are unexpectedly large, or confusing, or both, they may go unpaid.

“Mayo Clinic’s aim is world class revenue cycle that lives up to its world class clinical care,” Shillinger pointed out. “A key component of the plan is simplified patient billing.” Mullen stated, “Our mission at Northwestern Medicine is patients first. We try to adapt that into the revenue cycle to enhance the patient experience.”

Making It Easy for Patients

Northwestern Medicine wanted to make it as easy as possible for patients to pay their bills online, and began by overhauling its billing statement. The “before” version was the typical confusing medical bill that makes patients eyes glaze over. “We really tried to change that in the appearance of our statements, making them more patient-friendly, less confusing, and easier to read,” says Mullen.

Northwestern Medicine also wanted to give patients more payment options to suit their preferences, as well as their ability to pay. “We gave patients multiple ways to pay their bills digitally,” says Mullen. Patients can pay bills through Epic MyChart, or as a guest. They can set up payment plans. They can store their credit card information and make automatic payments. Mobile users can scan a QR code on the statement and quickly get to the online payment page.

Mayo Clinic and Northwestern Medicine partnered with Simplee, a technology solution provider specializing in patient financial care. “We looked at best practices in the industry and took advantage of many of the options that Mike notes,” says Schillinger. “Our patients are very informed and engaged in their health care, and we wanted them to have the same level of engagement on the financial side.”

Satisfied Patients Pay Their Bills

The results so far have been impressive. “The payments are rolling in,” says Mullen. “You can see over a year period of time just the tremendous growth in the self-service payments.” Mullen notes that when patients are satisfied with their billing experience, they are more likely to make a payment.

The number of patients at Northwestern Medicine setting up payment plans has grown steadily. “Having a payment plan option interest free is just a great way to really get that payment over time and reduce the amount going to bad debt,” says Mullen.

Schillinger agrees. “It was very powerful to put this in the hands of the patients and allow them to set up recurring payments,” she says. “We’ve seen a tremendous increase in the amount of payment plans.”

Measuring Patient Satisfaction

Patient satisfaction with the billing experience overall has soared. At Northwestern, 85 percent of all patients surveyed are very satisfied with their patient financial care experience. That is in stark contrast to an industry average of 35 percent. At Mayo Clinic, it’s the Net Promoter Score that shows clear change. At the end of each transaction, patients are asked, “How likely is it that you would recommend Mayo Clinic to a friend/colleague due to your recent your billing experience?” Patients score their experience on a scale from 1-10, and have the ability to add comments.The higher the score, the more likely the company is to keep their existing customers and acquire new ones. Mayo Clinic’s Net Promoter score is 44 compared to an industry average of 18.

Just reading through the comments from both surveys clearly shows why scores have improved so much:

  • “Very clean and simple. Very efficient – a wonder in the health world – thank you.” (Northwestern Medicine patient)
  • “I LOVE the Mayo Clinic. Its how Health Care should be. Everything is just easy and efficient – even setting up a payment plan.”

Schillinger shares, “We’ve always heard, ‘My neighbor referred me,’ or ‘My best friend referred me,’ or ‘My aunt was here and had a great experience.’ Now we have a way to actually quantify with a proven metric what percentage of our patients would actually refer somebody else.”

Doing Right By Patients Pays Off

Consumers expectations are set by digital leaders like Amazon, and both Mullen and Schillinger are committed to moving patient financial care in their organizations closer to that high standard. The early results indicate that this is the right strategy. “When we first started to align with the needs of the patient, we had no idea of the impact it would have on our financials, and the good work is resulting in good financial recovery,” says Schillinger. “So doing the right thing for your patients could be seen as doing the right thing for your business as well.”

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