Doctors must offer awareness, education, and even financing options

Talking about money can be awkward—particularly for doctors and patients discussing the cost of health care. Whether due to ignorance, embarrassment, or other factors, people who wouldn’t think twice about asking the price of a product in a store or comparing car prices on the internet can clam up in health care settings. But if patients don’t know how much a treatment or procedure will cost them, or what the payoff will be, they are unlikely to pursue it. Here’s help for navigating these conversations with patients.

Be aware of patients’ cost concerns

First, you may assume that if patients aren’t asking you about costs, this might not be a concern for them. In some cases, especially if a patient has good health insurance, that may be true. But times have changed, and as premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket spending have increased, even patients with health insurance are feeling the pinch of health care costs.

Times have changed, and as premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket spending have increased, even patients with health insurance are feeling the pinch of health care costs. Click To Tweet
Even patients with health insurance may have trouble affording health care costs, and may skip treatment because of it.

According to 2017 data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, four in ten (43 percent) adults with health insurance say they have difficulty affording their deductible, and roughly a third say they have trouble affording their premiums and other cost sharing. Concerns about cost also led to delaying or skipping care:

  • 27 percent of patients surveyed said they have put off or postponed getting health care they needed
  • 23 percent said they have skipped a recommended medical test or treatment
  • 21 percent had not filled a prescription

For more on this topic, see How to Help Patients Navigate Health Care Costs

Education may be more important than affordability

Even if the issue is not whether they can afford care, patients are still more cost conscious than ever before. A recent report on how Americans are trying to find and use health care price information found that half of those surveyed have tried to find out before getting care how much they would have to pay out of pocket, not including copays, and/or how much their insurers would pay. A smaller number (20 percent) of Americans have tried to compare prices across multiple providers before getting care—and of those who did, more than half say they saved money.

Here’s the part that may be eye-opening to doctors: “Most Americans do not think prices are a sign of quality in health care. Of those who have tried to compare prices, most have chosen less expensive care,” stated the report.

If your practice offers elective treatments such as LASIK, lifestyle IOLs, or cosmetic services, your job is to “sell” patients on the benefits of these premium treatments. And we at Rendia believe the best way to do that is not to sell patients at all, but to educate them.

For millennials, the largest group of potential LASIK customers, patient education is more important than discounted pricing.

Education is especially important to a key demographic everyone is trying to reach: millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 1996). For instance, while 35- to 42-year-old patients are still the most common group that gets LASIK, industry experts say it’s time to focus on the younger generation. “The 22- to 28-year-old age group is the fastest-growing and largest group of potential LASIK customers in the country,” Mike Malley, of CRM Marketing in Houston, told the Review of Ophthalmology. And millennials are more influenced by educational information than discounts, according to the article.

Many of us will pay a premium for something we value, whether that’s cars, travel, or our children’s education. And what is more valuable than our eyesight? Rendia has a number of videos geared toward potential LASIK candidates, such as  LASIK: Introduction.”

And for more on this topic, see LASIK is making a comeback. How are you telling your patients?

Show, don’t sell

Another way to “sell” patients on an elective treatment is to show them what results they can expect. One of our most popular videos is the “Extended Depth of Focus IOL,” also called the TECNIS Symfony ® IOL. The video explains this new technology by showing patients the expected visual outcomes from this implant, ideal for those who frequently read on computers and desire a continuous range of vision for near, intermediate, and far distances.

Rendia also offers a new tool, the Outcome Simulator, which was created to help eye doctors better communicate the value of premium IOLs or the side effects of refractive surgery to their patients.screen recording of the Outcome Simulator comparing two cataract treatment options

Show patients expected outcomes to explain the value of elective treatments.

Outcome Simulator was designed to help surgeons, surgical counselors, and co-managing optometrists with all types of patients, including those who are hesitant about the out-of-pocket costs of a procedure. With this tool, you can articulate the value and help them make an informed choice while building trust with patients and striving for transparency.

Understand and explain coverage and financing options

Knowing the cost of treatment and understanding the value of it is crucial; however, it’s also important to help patients figure out how to pay for their care. While it’s not possible for doctors to know the specifics of every insurance plan, you and your staff should be willing to explain the basics to patients, such as calculating their annual deductible, how to use FSA or HSA funds, and how to secure financing, if necessary.

For instance, the CareCredit credit card is accepted by over 200,000 health care providers in the U.S. for various medical procedures and services, such as vision care, cosmetic and dermatology services, dental services, and hearing care.

Patients want to know what to expect, in terms of costs and outcomes.

The bottom line is that patients want to know what to expect, both in terms of costs and outcomes. They want to know that you understand their needs, concerns, and questions. We all value our health, and most of us are willing to pay to maintain it, provided that we understand the risks and benefits, and trust our medical providers.

Are you doing what it takes to communicate the value of your services to patients and help them pay for their care? To see how Rendia can help you facilitate cost of care conversations with your patients, contact us today.