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Compassionate communication: Why it pays to go back to basics

Compassionate communication: Why it pays to go back to basics

Boost patient loyalty + payments by going back to the basics

Patients often find their medical billing experience confusing and frustrating, especially around understanding what they owe and why. Fortunately, this is solvable with technology, communication, and compassion.

Technology can help healthcare organizations communicate to patients about the cost of services earlier and make billing easier. But patients need to adopt the new technologies to benefit from them.

To foster patient adoption, organizations must take a people-first approach, treating patients like humans and communicating with them in a way that makes them feel heard, understood, and empowered to use new tools such as patient payment portals and show up to their appointment with less stress.

People have more stress and less empathy

Conversations around anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges are among the hottest topics today. The 2022 Stress in America poll by the American Psychological Association found that 87% of respondents are concerned about the rising costs of day-to-day expenses. The study also found that 65% of respondents are stressed about money and the economy — the highest level of money-related stress recorded in six years.

Add to that the rising cost of healthcare and concerns around billing. A survey by U.S. Bank found that 67% of patients worry about unexpected bills. Waystar’s Embracing Consumerism in Healthcare study found that 63% of patients say they are dissatisfied with how they pay and discover costs connected to their care.

While stress increases, Americans’ tendency to express empathy — or care for others — appears to be decreasing. This is a problem in healthcare, where patients who may already be anxious due to healthcare challenges are suddenly worried about their medical bills.

But health organizations can help patients feel more confident about the billing process by:

  • Taking a compassionate + empathetic approach to collections
  • Delivering consistent and straightforward communications
  • Creating a seamless patient financial experience with the right technology

Getting back to the basics

With the state of our country’s mental health and levels of empathy in mind, getting back to the basics of the human experience can play an essential role in healthcare revenue cycle technology.

“Revenue cycle teams need to lead with compassion,” said Lauren Tungate, a Solution Strategist at Waystar. “It’s important to understand patients may be afraid of their upcoming appointment plus any necessary follow-up and recovery.”

To foster patient adoption of patient portals, healthcare organizations must consistently communicate about the cost of services, starting before they are delivered.

“The ability for us to really deliver compassion has to do with understanding the anxiety that is caused when information is not known,” said Justin Roepe, a Solution Strategist at Waystar. “Cost transparency is a crucial step in creating that ability to help patients understand their costs.”

5 tips + tricks to communicate with compassion  

A healthcare organization that is compassionate and communicates clearly to patients about what they will be expected to pay goes a long way. This approach helps patients get the most out of their visit with their healthcare provider — and helps you foster patient adoption.

  1. Communicate early + promptly. For the most part, patients want to pay their bills. The earlier you communicate in the process, the less anxiety patients seem to feel because they know what to expect. Follow up with timely communications. Waiting too long can cause anxiety.
  2. Consolidate information. Include as much information in one message versus sending multiple communications. For example, bundle hospital and physician charges together.
  3. Offer compassionate options. Remember that not all patients have the ability to pay in full. Leverage data to communicate payment options and offer flexible payment plans. Use words like “let’s,” “we,” and “together” so it feels like a collaboration.
  4. Use patient-friendly language. Modernize statements and provide information with language that’s easy for patients to understand and accurately reflects their charges. Terms like “prior authorization,” “claims,” and “appeals” can create confusion and anxiety.
  5. Be consistent with messaging. Remember the rule of threes: people are more likely to remember and understand information when it is presented in threes. Leverage your technology to communicate with them the way they prefer, whether in person, digitally, or on paper.

When providers deliver compassionate care and clear communications while letting technology handle the rest, patients are empowered to own their financial responsibilities.

A compassionate solution

Waystar partners with healthcare providers, health systems, and hospitals to support a compassionate financial experience for your patients. Our solutions help you offer patients highly accurate estimates, personalized communications, streamlined collections, and automated reconciliations. Schedule a demo here and see how our experts can help you put these strategies into action.

Find this post helpful? Read our whitepaper about How to increase patient collections + loyalty with a data-driven approach.

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