The Difference Between Compassion and Advocacy


Why They Both Matter in Patient Financial Interactions

These are financially challenging times for consumers. In addition to the impact of high-deductible health plans over the past decade, they now find themselves facing inflation around every corner of their lives. Today, nearly 100 million Americans are struggling to pay their healthcare bills, and close to 20% have medical debt that has gone to collections. The reality is that patients are now faced with the difficult task of choosing which bills get paid and which do not. When forced to make these choices, they understandably opt to pay for groceries, their rent or mortgage, and car payments before they can even consider paying their medical bills. This, in turn, poses a significant challenge for providers to collect.

Given that providers are also grappling with their own financial challenges, the question arises: What can they do? The answer lies in the concept of “compassionate advocacy.”

The Difference Between Compassion and Advocacy

Although the terms compassion and advocacy may sound similar, they are distinct. Compassion means being sympathetic to a person’s distress while also wanting to alleviate it. Advocacy means supporting or promoting the interests or needs of an individual. In other words, advocating for a patient’s financial needs doesn’t necessarily require compassion. Similarly, expressing compassion for a patient’s situation during an encounter doesn’t automatically translate to guiding them through their financial journey. Understanding this difference is crucial to understanding how they can work together to improve both the patient financial experience and collections.

Both compassion and advocacy serve a purpose in the patient financial experience. However, on their own, neither will achieve all that they could were they applied together.

Compassionate Advocacy in Action

Four elements are required to implement compassionate advocacy. The first is to identify your patients’ most significant needs. The second is to create solutions to address those needs. The third is to help patients navigate those solutions. The fourth is to create a mechanism for feedback to achieve continuous improvement. 

We’ve already identified that patients are having significant trouble paying for the care they need. The next step in compassionate advocacy is to implement solutions that meet patients where they live by providing customizable options that make it easier for them to pay. Leveraging digital technology is an excellent place to begin as research shows that 75% of consumers want digital healthcare options. Following are five opportunities to bring compassionate advocacy to the patient financial experience, helping to alleviate financial stressors so patients can afford to get the care they need.

  1. Patient responsibility estimation. Nine in ten patients say it’s important that they know what they will owe before the time of service. Having this information allows them to make more informed decisions about their care. It also allows providers to have an open financial discussion with their patients and to educate them about their payment options.
  1. Digital payment options. According to research by Forrester, digital payments now outnumber traditional payments among U.S. adults. Yet, when it comes to medical bills, the story is quite the opposite. While 75% of consumers surveyed said they want the ability to pay for their healthcare bills online, 71% of providers still use paper and manual processes most often to collect from their patients. Digital payment options should include mobile payments as well as online payment portals where patients can set up recurring payments and text reminders. 
  1. Convenient payment plans. Consumers appreciate the convenience of payment plans, especially when those plans are customized for their unique financial situation. Offering them the ability to add balances from other family members can also be helpful. Having to manage multiple bills for multiple family members is challenging. Being able to do it all via a single payment plan can help.
  1. Easy statement access. Giving patients the ability to view their statements at any time online helps keep them better informed. Being able to see their medical bill in detail, as well as the progress of their claims, provides an added layer of transparency that can help them make better decisions about their healthcare and finances. 
  1. Measuring feedback. Most providers send patient satisfaction surveys that cover the patient’s service. It is also beneficial to survey patients about their financial experience as well. Doing so can help organizations refine their financial processes, which may mean additional staff training or adding more digital payment features. The goal is to measure the feedback over time to track ongoing performance.

Choosing the Right Partner

Many provider organizations outsource all or a portion of their patient financial processes. It is critical that these outsourcers embrace compassionate advocacy in their own culture. They must understand that a poor patient financial encounter can completely offset a positive clinical experience. They also need to know that it’s not just about the number of accounts processed or the number of phone calls made. It’s about creating positive encounters that enhance the patient’s relationship with the provider and the provider’s brand reputation, in addition to strengthening their bottom line. 

When choosing a partner, it is essential to choose one that functions as a vital extension of the provider’s existing teams. Revenue Enterprises is an excellent choice. 

With more than 35 years of experience, Revenue Enterprises understands the business of care and the role of compassionate advocacy. Our approach to patient receivables prioritizes your goals.  Enhancing patient relationships and bolstering your community impact is at the core of everything we do. We don’t just serve your community; we become a part of it. We integrate with your team and foster positive, personalized relationships with patients through compassionate advocacy to ensure your best face is always forward.

90% of patients surveyed said that provider loyalty depends on the patient financial experience.

The Time to Act is Now

Consumerism has changed the way individuals view their healthcare. Today’s consumers expect better healthcare experiences and are willing to switch providers to get them. In fact, 93% of consumers said they may not return to a provider due to a poor billing experience.

The bottom line is that in these challenging times, patients need providers who demonstrate compassionate advocacy throughout the financial experience. Providing digital options and a positive patient experience at every encounter can strengthen the provider-patient experience and help patients get the vital care they need when they need it. 

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