Loyale Healthcare, a Leading Financial Technology Company Explores Healthcare CEOs & Innovation: Who Thrives? Who Survives?

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The need to innovate is widely recognized by healthcare industry leaders, but how many are really prepared for the deep cultural and technological changes this rapidly evolving industry demands?

Turning Patient Responsibility into Lasting Loyalty

We believe healthcare providers can successfully manage adaptive change using a phased approach and the same tools they will eventually rely on to execute under their new, consumer-centric model.

Earlier this year, Modern Healthcare published an article by contributor Rachel Z. Arndt titled CEO Power Panel: Health Systems Find Consumerism Drives Innovation. It reports on the results of a survey administered to Modern Healthcare’s panel of 75 top CEOs. The results are telling and reflect the pressures healthcare CEOs face as they work to ensure the long-term health and viability of their organizations.

My colleagues and I were particularly intrigued with this report, because of its prominent recognition of an industry phenomenon that’s driving change and inviting disruption from high-profile new industry participants. Specifically, the article summarizes that “Healthcare CEOs see consumerism transforming the industry and are looking for tools to navigate that change…”

“Transforming” is the operative word in this important observation. The changes that patient consumerism calls for are not incremental or tactical. These changes demand new approaches and new ways of thinking. This is especially true today with patient expectations at all-time highs, and new industry players with impeccable consumer engagement credentials entering the industry.

Technology plays a major role in advancing the called-for innovation, but innovation isn’t entirely dependent on technology. In fact, cultural innovation may be even more important as healthcare providers overcome their own natural resistance to change and reimagine their roles as deliverers of care experiences that patients are more likely to choose, then choose again.

The report notes several key examples of innovation. Among them are a move to more virtual care (telemedicine) to reduce travel and cost, mobile technology to improve access to information and care, and artificial intelligence or AI, which is already demonstrating value as a clinical support tool and offers considerable promise as a predictive tool for everything from population health management to patient financial management. Just under half of the survey participants said AI is just as promising as telehealth at driving consumer-centered innovation.

Loyale Healthcare’s experiences echo these survey findings. We administered our own survey earlier this year in partnership with Health Leaders Media Research Group and its Industry Leadership Council. Our survey and summary white paper “Designing a New Path to Patient Financial Engagement” focused on the financial dimension of patients’ care experiences. It found that 96% of respondents agreed that patients’ financial experiences are important or very important to the patient’s overall care experience.

Surprisingly, however, the same Loyale/Health Leaders survey found that only 32% of respondents planned any significant changes or investments in their organizations’ revenue cycle or patient engagement tools or methodologies. This points to a persistent industry tendency to underestimate the importance of patients’ financial experiences or to overestimate the ability of their existing tools and systems to meet consumer expectations.

Loyale’s Founder and Chairman, Dan Peterson, opined on this tendency in a guest article for The Beryl Institute, an organization dedicated to improving patient experiences. The article, titled “The Patient Experience Blind Spot: Three Ways to Fix It”, points out that financial considerations represent a significant barrier to care access and that patients’ financial experiences often have a damaging effect on overall patient satisfaction and desirable consumer behavior.

The article goes on to prescribe three high-level measures to effect innovation that transforms the consumer’s financial experience: 1) Measure patients’ financial experience satisfaction, 2) Innovate to comprehend and address the entire patient financial journey, and 3) Personalize to align standards of financial care with the standards applied to clinical care.

It’s possible that the disparity between providers’ investments in patient financial innovation and its importance to the overall patient experience may be attributable to cultural issues. Power Panel respondents reported that, although their organizations’ boards regularly discussed innovation and that more than 2/3 have an executive in charge of innovation, 69.4% saw culture as the biggest threat to innovation.

Overcoming the cultural barriers to transformative change is a formidable task. This is true in nearly every business and operating environment where “we’ve always done it this way” is a convenient and heretofore reliable standard for acceptable performance. When change is incremental, it’s relatively easy to implement new policies or tools to speed or ease existing systems and protocols. This type of change is categorized as technical change – specifically change that calls on known solutions used by individuals with existing know-how.

Transformation, however, calls for adaptive change. Adaptive challenges can only be addressed through changes in people’s priorities, beliefs, habits and loyalties. It demands going beyond any authoritative expertise to mobilize discovery, shed entrenched ways and tolerate lessons – ultimately generating a new capacity to thrive under a new model.

We believe healthcare providers can successfully manage adaptive change using a phased approach and the same tools they will eventually rely on to execute under their new, consumer-centric model.

Many of the innovation elements identified by Modern’s Healthcare’s Power Panel are material to patient financial innovation. Mobile access enabling robust patient/provider financial interaction; Artificial Intelligence recognizing patterns in patient payment behavior and adapting to optimize patient experiences and provider collections; and Personalization, also enabled in part by predictive analytics, to engage with patients more intimately and compassionately.

The successful leap from the status quo to full, end-to-end patient financial engagement is a big, adaptive change. But getting there can be dealt with technically at first by beginning with providers’ most pressing patient financial challenges, namely collections. Using existing systems and know-how, these processes can be automated and patient communications and financial planning tools can be implemented to begin improving patient experiences and provider collections. When those systems are stable and productive, moving forward into more adaptive change affecting the patient earlier in their care journey can be undertaken.

Patient consumerism is driving innovation and inviting disruption from brands like Apple, Walmart, Amazon, CVS/Aetna and others. These players have proven their ability to respond to evolving consumer expectations. Further, they have the operating footprints and brand loyalty that could dramatically change the way healthcare is chosen and delivered.

It’s a big challenge, but it’s one providers can overcome successfully. With their traditions of personal care, engaged citizenship and patient advocacy and a willingness to take on adaptive change, we believe the future will be a bright one for innovative hospitals and health systems.

Kevin Fleming is the CEO of Loyale Healthcare, a company dedicated to reinventing patients' financial experiences using technology and redefined work processes to engage more meaningfully with the modern healthcare consumer.

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Michael Morrison
Loyale Healthcare

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