Practice Efficiency 

The Impact of Price Transparency on Tele-health and Digital Health Providers

Written by
Kashyap Purani
Published on
July 5, 2024

At a Glance:

  • Patients Want Transparency: 82% of patients prioritize upfront cost information when choosing a telehealth provider. Clear pricing builds trust and empowers patients to make informed decisions.
  • Transparency Benefits Virtual Healthcare Businesses: Telehealth companies that embrace transparent pricing can streamline operations, improve data accuracy, and potentially reduce costs. This allows them to focus on delivering high-quality care.
  • The Future is Transparent: Regulatory bodies are mandating increased price transparency. By being proactive, telehealth companies can demonstrate ethical practices and gain a competitive edge in a patient-centric market.

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The booming telehealth and digital health sectors have revolutionized healthcare accessibility. However, building trust in this evolving landscape hinges on transparency. Price transparency, a rising trend across healthcare, presents a unique opportunity for telehealth businesses to solidify patient relationships, optimize operations, and thrive in a value-driven environment. A recent American Medical Association (AMA) study revealed that 82% of patients prioritize upfront cost information when choosing a healthcare provider, highlighting the growing demand for clear pricing. By embracing transparent pricing models, telehealth companies can position themselves at the forefront of this patient-centric movement.

While opaque patient services pricing persists, innovative digital-first companies are pioneering new RCM tools and methods that can turn this challenge into a strategic advantage. One such popular trend is the emergence of automated patient price estimate sheets. These AI-powered tools leverage patient data and procedure codes to generate upfront cost breakdowns, empowering patients to make informed decisions. This transparency fosters trust and reduces administrative burdens, propelling digital-first healthcare businesses towards a future of efficiency and patient-centric care.

But why price transparency and why should you care about it now more than ever?

Why Building Patient Trust Matters for Telehealth Providers?

The modern patient is a savvy consumer. They navigate the world of online services with high expectations for convenience, transparency, and a positive user experience. Healthcare providers must adapt to meet these expectations and deliver an exceptional patient journey, especially in the realm of telehealth.

Telehealth presents a unique challenge as the physical distance between provider and patient can create uncertainty. Patients may have questions about service specifics, out-of-pocket costs, and overall value. Addressing these concerns proactively is crucial. Clear communication regarding costs, detailed service descriptions, and readily available answers foster trust and reduce patient drop-out rates.

Furthermore, online reviews hold significant weight. Building a strong online reputation through positive patient experiences is vital for telehealth providers. By prioritizing transparency, communication, and seamless patient experience, telehealth providers can earn patient trust and thrive in the ever-evolving healthcare landscape.

Building Patient Trust Through Clarity

A 2023 study identifies a core benefit of price transparency in healthcare: empowering patients to feel informed, prepared, and involved. In telehealth, where physical interaction with a healthcare provider's office might be limited, establishing trust becomes even more critical. By clearly outlining their pricing structure, telehealth companies can alleviate a significant source of patient anxiety and uncertainty.

In a scenario where a patient experiencing sleep disturbances seeks a remote consultation. Without transparent pricing, the patient might hesitate due to the fear of encountering hidden fees or surprise bills. This can lead to delayed care decisions, potentially worsening the condition. However, with readily available pricing information, the patient can:

  • Compare Costs: They can compare prices for different telehealth consultations (e.g., initial consultation vs. follow-up) or explore bundled packages if offered.
  • Budget Accordingly: Knowing the upfront cost allows the patient to plan their healthcare expenses and make informed financial decisions.
  • Reduce Surprise Bills: Transparency eliminates the worry of unexpected charges, fostering trust and promoting a more open patient-provider relationship.

Price transparency goes beyond simply listing service fees. Telehealth companies can further build trust by providing clear explanations of what's included in each service tier- this can involve providing details like consultation duration, availability of follow-ups and details on the billing of prescription fees. As explored in depth in Upfront Patient Payment: Best Practices to Drive Patient Collections, transparent pricing models allow virtual healthcare providers to avoid fewer conflicts in reimbursement collections later in the collections process.

In addition to clear pricing structures and service explanations, virtual-first companies can take transparency a step further by implementing cost estimator tools on their websites. These interactive tools allow patients to input basic information about their condition or desired service and receive an estimated cost for their telehealth visit. This empowers patients to make informed decisions about their care without needing to contact the practice directly, reducing anxiety and streamlining the process.

Beyond Trust: Streamlined Operations

Price transparency's impact on telehealth goes beyond fostering patient trust. It unlocks a range of operational advantages that empower companies to focus on delivering high-quality virtual care. Opaque pricing often fuels a significant pain point for healthcare providers: revenue cycle management (RCM) tasks. Explaining complex billing structures, handling cost inquiries, and chasing payments consume valuable time and resources. Transparent pricing cuts through this complexity. Patients understand the cost of care upfront, eliminating the need for lengthy explanations and reducing billing-related inquiries. This frees staff to focus on scheduling appointments, coordinating care, and other value-adding activities. Streamlined billing translates to improved overall efficiency. Less time spent on administrative tasks means more time for staff to invest in care coordination, patient outreach, and quality improvement initiatives. Our previous analysis of practice efficiencies in Going Beyond RCM: Why Patient Financial Clearance Matters highlighted that a smoother and more efficient patient experience benefits patients and allows telehealth companies to operate more cost-effectively, potentially leading to savings in billing company expenditures.

Additionally, transparent pricing models lead to improved data accuracy within the billing system. When patients understand charges upfront, there's a lower chance of disputes or confusion, resulting in cleaner data crucial for financial reporting, regulatory compliance, and future business planning. Ultimately, the greatest benefit of streamlined operations is the ability to dedicate more resources to patient care. By reducing administrative burdens and improving efficiency, telehealth and digital companies can invest more time and energy into initiatives like developing personalized care plans, expanding access to specialists, and providing ongoing patient education and support. Prioritizing transparency and streamlining operations not only ensures financial sustainability but also creates a culture focused on delivering the best possible care, leading to higher patient satisfaction, improved clinical outcomes, and a stronger competitive edge in the rapidly growing telehealth market.

Staying Compliant, Proactively

Fueled by a growing public demand for clarity on healthcare costs, regulators are taking action. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a powerful force in the American healthcare system, has implemented regulations mandating increased price transparency from healthcare providers. Notably, these regulations encompass not only traditional brick-and-mortar practices but also the burgeoning telehealth and digital health sectors.

This regulatory shift presents both challenges and opportunities for telehealth companies. Compliance with these new regulations is, of course, non-negotiable. By proactively embracing clear and consistent pricing models, telehealth companies can demonstrate a commitment to ethical practices and patient well-being. This, in turn, can foster trust and loyalty among patients seeking a more transparent and patient-centric healthcare experience. Furthermore, transparent pricing structures can incentivize internal discussions within telehealth companies regarding cost optimization and value-based care delivery. This focus on efficiency can ultimately translate into more competitive service offerings for patients, solidifying the position of telehealth companies at the forefront of a value-driven healthcare environment.

Patient Estimate Sheets: A Strategic Advantage

Telehealth and digital health companies can reap significant benefits from implementing automated price estimate sheets. These tools streamline the billing process by eliminating the need for repetitive explanations of service costs.

The transparency fostered by automated price estimates goes beyond immediate benefits. It demonstrates a commitment to ethical practices and patient well-being, building trust and loyalty in a competitive market. By embracing transparency as a core value, telehealth companies can position themselves at the forefront of a patient-centric healthcare future.

To understand how you can implement Price Transparency in your healthcare business, get in touch with us.