Are High-Deductible Plans Transforming You Into a Cash Practice?
If your 2017 is off to a slower start than 2016, the negative impact of high-deductible plans is probably nothing new to you. Most insurance-based medical practices grudgingly accept that patients will postpone care on anything that is not an urgent health crisis until “later” when their deductibles have been met.
But the inexorable trend toward employees and people in the individual insurance market being given only high-deductible plan options is predicted to now negatively impact medical utilization throughout the year, not just in the first few months.
The new reality is that insurance-based medical practices need to understand and accept that they are now operating more and more as a cash-based practice for considerable portions of the year. Certainly, that is how many of your patients now see you.
This means you have to start thinking and behaving more like cash-based practices and learn from their proven techniques.
Most insurance-based medical practices and hospital-owned outpatient clinics don’t have a strategy to communicate, educate and motivate their patients to take action on their health problems even in spite of the out-of-pocket cost for the patient. That not only costs you a lot of money but eventually increases the number of expensive treatments required to help patients who waited too long to come in and are now in more serious trouble than they should have been.
Outcomes also suffer which adversely affects not only the patients but also your reimbursement.
Healthcare providers generally don’t like to think of themselves in any kind of sales role. In fact, it’s antithetical to the reasons that healthcare providers choose their careers.
But with the exception of cash-based practices, healthcare providers don’t appreciate the definition of “sales” as the art of influence. In that context, the best healthcare providers have always engaged in selling in terms of influencing patient behavior.
If your patient is not “buying” what your are “selling” in filling and consistently taking their prescribed medications, the patient’s health inevitably suffers.
If your patient is postponing necessary treatment because they are not “sold” on the reason that the deferral of care will usually have negative health consequences that will cost everyone a lot more later, then they will often opt to defer treatment if the cost has to come out of their pocket.
There are two possible interpretations of “I can’t afford to do this now.” One meaning is that they literally do not have the money required to cover their out-of-pocket costs. The second meaning for those who actually do or could have the money to move forward with care now rather than later may be that “I can’t afford it” really means you haven’t convinced them that the investment in their own health is worth the hit to their wallets.
Whether or not you feel comfortable with the concept of “selling” your patients on doing what is in their own best interests, the future of healthcare costs and outcomes in the U.S. is going to increasingly be based on the effectiveness or providers in the “art of influence.”
Do you have a strategy for countering the negative impact of high-deductible plans with your patients? If you don’t, we should talk. I’ve worked with medical practices and hospitals all across the country for the past 30 years to help them attract (and motivate) more of the patients and cases they want and need.
Call me at (949) 633-7356 if you want to talk.
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