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Three Questions for Gary Word, Ph.D., Vice President, Network and Payment Solutions, Change Healthcare: Post-Webinar Interview

Recently, Gary Word, Ph.D., Vice President, Network and Payment Solutions, Change Healthcare, participated in a Healthcare Web Summit webinar discussion on Ways to Leverage Financial Tools to Optimize Digital Member Engagement. If you missed this informative webinar presentation, watch the On-Demand version here. After the webinar, we interviewed Gary on key takeaways from the webinar:

1. How is the paradigm shifting for consumer healthcare payments?

Gary Word: Several factors are contributing to this shift. First, adoption of high-deductible health plans has increased for both sponsored plans and especially for individual health plans. This means that consumers, more than ever, bear a higher financial responsibility for their healthcare – both in terms of paying higher insurance premiums, as well as paying a larger share of their healthcare costs. Because of these factors, there is an increase in people becoming active consumers and shoppers. In this way, healthcare payers and providers have entered an era of consumerism. Payers and providers need to attract and retain consumers, partly by providing tools that facilitate a smooth healthcare payment experience. In the digital consumer era, this means that payers that offer digital tools are more likely to retain a member.  Providers are also expected to improve the consumer user experience to ease the historically complex exercise of understanding healthcare finances.

2. How is the change in consumer payment responsibility having an impact on provider financials?

Gary Word: With the increase in high-deductible health plans, consumers are responsible for a much larger portion of healthcare expenses. The collection of these obligations is of increasing importance for providers. The billing process has also become more complex, with a single hospital visit sometimes resulting in the consumer receiving many bills, some from providers they didn’t even know provided them with healthcare services. We know there is a direct correlation between satisfaction in the billing process and whether or not the consumer will pay his or her bill in full and in a timely manner, or even return to the provider for future service. Conversely, a consumer that is satisfied with their healthcare billing experience is more likely pay their obligation in full and more likely to return to the provider.

3. Tell us more about how the Change Healthcare solution is supporting Aetna’s mission to improve member engagement and experience?

Gary Word: The payer is in a unique position to facilitate payment across all providers a member sees from a centralized location. Our consumer surveys indicate that payers are typically a trusted resource to verify financial obligations because the information the payer includes in the explanation of benefits is what the consumer trusts to be the correct patient responsibility. By offering a centralized payment option for the consumer, a payer enhances relations and satisfaction with both providers and consumers by facilitating collections and payments, while also earning additional opportunities to engage with their membership. It’s a win-win-win situation. 

Aetna has partnered with Change Healthcare to enable processed claims to effectively serve as a patient statement proxy and allow the member to easily pay their providers for their patient responsibility within the Aetna member application. Upon reviewing the claim detail and seeing the patient responsibility, the consumer is offered the ability to make a payment right then and there. Aetna and Change Healthcare then work together to process the payment and send the funds to the provider. The ease of payments increases the likelihood that the member will turn again to Aetna to make future payments.  Aetna will then be able to engage with the member and provide targeted messages – such as for wellness initiatives or broader communications. Additionally, these digital tools are easing the member’s burden and stress associated with healthcare financial management by providing insights into expenditures to aid consumers with planning and management of costs, allowing Aetna to focus on the total healthcare of their membership. 

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