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Rising Patient Costs Raise Stakes for More Effective Engagement

Posted by Mike Rigert on Aug 11, 2021 8:30:00 AM

New research shows that patient out-of-pocket healthcare expenses rose by 10 percent since 2020 and will likely increase at the same rate between now and 2026.

The average annual out-of-pocket patient financial responsibility in 2021 is $1,650. By comparison, in 1980 it was $250. Increasing premiums, economic changes, and the rise of certain costly chronic care illnesses have all contributed to that steep increase.

That could be bad news for healthcare providers if more patients elect to delay or defer care due to steeper out-of-pocket costs. The “kick the can down the road” mentality can lead to more serious and expensive acute care needs in the future, particularly for patients with chronic care conditions and those affected by social determinants of health (SDOH). Similarly, patients that need routine and preventive care will experience poorer outcomes by foregoing care.

More effective patient engagement will be key to helping patients get the care they need while making sure each care visit counts. This puts increased importance on a provider’s efforts to ensure that patients arrive for appointments prepared and on time so that no visit goes to waste. Sending automated reminders will help reduce costly no-shows while personalized pre-visit instructions can help ensure patients complete prerequisite lab work, finish digital intake, and have wayfinding directions to the appointment. This means more patients are showing up on time and well-prepared for their care visits.

Similarly, sending out automated recall notices based on a patient’s diagnosis or other demographics will help remind patients to schedule or confirm needed preventive care or chronic care management. More active efforts to engage these patients will help them avoid pricey emergency department trips later for acute conditions.

Finally, texting and real-time two-way texting can be valuable tools to more effectively reach out patients affected by SDOH. Most everyone owns a smartphone or cellphone and uses it to text message. Texted reminders and notifications can serve as a valuable lifeline to help patients schedule follow-up care, check in with their primary care physician, or offer appointment transportation options.

Providers that take a text-first approach to more active patient communication will help patients get the timely care they need and avoid the care delays and deferments that lead to poor outcomes and higher costs for everyone.

To learn more about how effective texting has become as a better way to engage with today’s patients, check out the guide, “Text: It’s What’s Next.”

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Mike Rigert

Written by Mike Rigert

Mike Rigert has been a content writer in marketing and communications with several technology companies for over a decade. At SR Health, Rigert is tasked with creating compelling content that helps healthcare providers overcome their patient communication inefficiencies to make their organizations more profitable. When he’s not typing away on his computer, he enjoys discussing sci-fi, reading nonfiction, and eating chocolate.