Helping patients with the bill can improve their experience

With consumers facing large responsibilities because of high-deductible plans, services such as ClearBalance help them meet obligations.

Most patients are looking for ways to pay bills for medical care, and payment plans can facilitate meeting their obligations.

This article is part of a CEO leadership series

The patient’s experience with a healthcare provider doesn’t just end when the patient walks through the exit door. At that point, or soon after, the cost of care can become the new worry.

Indeed, managing the cost of care is a top concern for healthcare organizations, only trailing the worry over recovering from treatment or suffering complications or experiencing a medical error. Indeed, it’s well documented that most Americans don’t know how they would pay for a $400 medical expense.

That’s why regulations such as those resulting from the No Surprises Act are emerging, with the intent of trying to give consumers advanced warning about the cost of care they are planning to receive. Giving patients a good-faith estimate of their expected bill is challenging, as final charges vary depending on the payer, the coverage plan, the complexity of the case and more.

But even such estimates can result in sticker shock, and healthcare organizations that are taking a global view of the patient experience are looking for ways to pre-emptively provide consumers with payment options, including making payments over time – an option common offered to consumers making other purchases, says Bruce Haupt, president and CEO ClearBalance.

The company this year was recognized by KLAS Research as Best in KLAS for patient financing solutions, a category that includes it and other patient financing service companies.

An essential option

Most patients want to settle accounts when they receive care, but don’t want to use high-interest options such as paying through a credit card. And hospitals often don’t want or don’t have the expertise to become a lender, assess credit risks or set out terms and manage debt service. But, neither do they want a patient’s care experience to be dominated by worries about the financial burden.

Services such as those provided by ClearBalance addresses those concerns. In fact, the company sees itself as having three sets of customers – the hospital or health system with which it contracts; the patient, who receives a loan covering the cost of care for medical treatment; and its bank partners, which provide the capital to fund the consumer loans.

With such a wide range of customers in a variety of trust relationships, it’s critical for ClearBalance to maintain strong, trustworthy relationships with all constituents. “We tell our people … do the right thing. Do whatever it takes to get the job done. We strive for really intimate customer relationships. We go with trust, truth and transparency.”

Even as it supports healthcare organizations and patients by intervening with financing plans for care, it’s gained its high marks by showing compassion as natural disasters strike regions and also during the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Do the right thing" guides ClearBalance CEO Bruce Haupt

Flexibility, references, growth

In the time Haupt has been CEO, “there have been hurricanes in North Carolina and floods in Louisiana. And a customer would call and we can say, ‘Hey, we got you; we know what’s going on in your geography.’ So we’ve been proactive and can say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do for your patients – we’re going to let them skip a payment.’

“The pandemic was another great example. We stepped out and created a program because we knew it was very possible that individuals would have difficulty paying their monthly payment if they lost their job. So we instituted a policy of letting people have an extra 60 days” on loans. “It’s not good for us financially on a transaction basis, but it’s definitely the right thing to do as a company.”

Even though that flexibility comes with a cost, but that is more than made up by the good faith and allegiance that such compassion evokes, Haupt contends. It leads to customer success, which reflects back brightly on the company.

Doing the right thing as a company is good for business

“I define customer success like this... if they are as an organization or as individuals, if they will be a reference for us, they will sing our praises, and they will do that because of the value that we provide. And if we’re providing the value, then we’re going to get our return. And that will be part of a success.”

That approach to building a trusting relationship can lead to other discussions that help both healthcare organizations that are clients and ClearBalance.

“We tell them to keep us in the loop, and let’s talk about how we evolve. That’s one of the things that is really important to sustaining these customer relationships – they have to evolve. Our service has to evolve in step with what their needs are, and with what’s happening in the healthcare industry. That takes trust and communication.”

Trust and communication return value in the relationship

See Beyond the Rankings, insights into ClearBalance and other high-achieving service & technology partners.

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