By: Michael Wong, M.D.
Disclosure: Michael Wong is a cofounder of Walnut. Walnut is a modern and ethical option for providers looking to offer patient financing. Find out more at hellowalnut.com
The U.S. is stuck in the crossroads of a healthcare affordability crisis.
No one wins in this situation - not providers, and definitely not patients.
In an attempt to bridge the cost of care, many patients have started to appreciate a sometimes forgotten factor in health care practices - patient financing.
From a patient standpoint, a financing program provides a manageable option to handle large out-of-pocket expenses that otherwise can’t be paid. This allows access to healthcare they want or need. Additionally, having this option to pay-over-time, eases the initial financial burden and allows them to make more informed decisions about their procedures.
Benefits don’t stop with the patient. Provider’s can also reap a host of benefits by offering patient financing as well. Let’s explore some big ones here:
Benefits of patient financing programs:
While there are a million factors in growing your practice and making it stand-out from your local competition, there are just as many barriers that stop patients from coming to see you. One big one is offering patient financing.
Not only do patients like and appreciate financing options, but many patients expect it. Think about it - when it comes to large purchases (like furniture, electronics, or even a car), they offer financing options. It’s a given. So why would medical practices be any different? In fact, 87% respondents on a recent survey expect their healthcare provider to offer long-term financing.
So what happens if a patient is looking around your website or calls your practice and you don’t offer patient financing? Well you can say “bye” as that same study shows that 37% of patients would opt to forgo treatment in practices without a patient financing program.
What’s the take-away? Patient financing has moved from a “luxury” and perk, to a requirement, and more patients are using it to guide their healthcare decisions.
However, be careful - it’s important to choose your financing option carefully. I went over some common options in a previous blog post. You’ll see that some popular options offered by your competition can be predatorial in the ways of hidden fees and interest hikes. For example, the popular CareCredit was hit with a lawsuit for its lending practices. This can lead to (understandably) upset patients. Avoid this by doing your homework and offering safe and ethical patient financing that benefits both your patients and your practice.
2) Higher Procedure Conversion
While the internet makes it easy to shop around and find the lowest price, there are certain things that we don’t like to skimp on. Healthcare is often one of them. However, as much as a patient wants to go to you for your skill and expertise, price is often a limiting factor.
Take a look at your procedure costs. To believe your patient can afford a large bill without offering financing may seem optimistic at best, insensitive at worst.
When patients see you in clinic, but then elect not to move forward with a procedure, that’s tangible revenue and opportunity lost. Again, patients want the procedure done by you, you just have to make it possible to do so. Having a good financing option can increase conversion, resulting in increased revenue for your practice.
3) Improved Patient Satisfaction
Patients like having options on how to pay. Why wouldn’t they? Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
In 2019, Cone Health in North Carolina, was highlighted in BusinessWire for expanding it’s flexible payment plan to all patients.
“Cone Health continues to show how innovation on the financial side of care can revolutionize patient engagement strategies and improve patient satisfaction,” said Stephen Scott, who helped implement the new payment plan.
This was reiterated by large providers like Baylor Scott & White Health, and Hackensack Meridian Health who rolled out their own financing programs. A followup survey showed that 90% of patient respondents say they are very likely to return to the health system based on the availability of their financing program. When they returned, they were more likely to spend more. They cite data that suggests if “patients who return to a health system within 18 months generates six times worth the revenue of the initial visit."
This also leads to additional referrals.. Happy patients are quick to tell their family, friends, or leave a positive online review. In that same survey, 88% say they will recommend the health system to family and friends.
4) Reducing Bad Debt
Medical debt is running rampant and it is easy to see why. 55% of Americans have received an unaffordable healthcare bill. For practices that already operate on a thin margin, debt and defaults can really hurt.
But just as patient financing can improve initial upfront revenue, it can also reduce bad debt. When N.C. based Novant Health began offering their own financing plan, they saw a 20 percent drop in its patient default rate, this report states.
When patients have a convenient and affordable method to pay their bill, they (unsurprisingly) were able to pay it! Patients don’t like debt or debt collectors any more than you and I. By offering safe financing options, you could potentially see your practices' bad debt decrease as well.
Hopefully, that’s enough to convince you to look into offering patient financing options for your practice.. The benefits span both patients and providers, and financing is increasingly being expected and wanted by patients. However, as stated before, choosing the right option is equally as important. Good luck and here’s to hopefully more happy and satisfied patients!