What Message Are You Sending?

Being successful at patient engagement is high on the lists of many healthcare delivery organizations, practices, and providers.

Recently I required extensive testing and care for some concerning symptoms that raised red flags. Appointments with the appropriate specialists were scheduled. Tests and imaging were ordered and completed; the waiting game for test results and answers began.

The clock ticked. The sun rose and set. The symptoms continued. The anxiety climbed higher and higher.

Phone calls and text messages from concerned family members came daily: “Did you hear anything yet? Any news?”

Five days later, the answer was still the same: “No, nothing yet.”

I was checking my patient portals and email for alerts. I double-checked my cell phone for text messages and missed calls between meetings. I called the doctor’s office inquiring for any updates and left voicemails.

On day six, an email appeared in my inbox: [Bill Notification] Your Bill from XXXX Health is Ready.

I logged into the portal. I scanned the bill: $274.00, $49.75, $49.21, $65.87, $26.40, $49.21. Due August 9th. How could the bills for my visits arrive before I received any results or any care for my health concerns?

I checked my portal for results: nothing. Incredibly frustrated, I called the office (again.)

Where were my results? There’s a process in place to get billing out to the patient electronically, seamlessly, rapidly through a portal but not my actual results. There’s no system or workflow tying the two together. It’s important to give credit where credit is due: health care is very good at creating silos.

There’s a deadline for my outstanding balance to be paid but no deadline or sense of urgency to get what could be life-altering results to me in the same manner.

There were numerous touch points to try to engage me as a patient.

The next day I received a text message reminding me of my outstanding balance with an offer for support if I needed assistance or had any questions about my balances. I received the insurance explanation of benefits and didn’t have any questions except “Where are my results?”

The following day I received a message in my portal that the bill had been sent by mail.

On day 11, the doctor finally called at the most inopportune time when I had no privacy to discuss the results in detail. Some monitoring and follow-up would be required. We discussed a plan and agreed on next steps.

Before we ended the call, the doctor asked if I had any questions.

“Could I have a copy of all of these results?”.

She replied, “They’ll be in your portal. If not, contact our medical records department.”

“Do you have the phone number to the medical records department?” I asked.

“Hold on, I’ll transfer you to the front desk.”

“How can I help you?” the receptionist asked.

“I would like to request a copy of my medical records.”

“Have you set up your patient portal?” the receptionist asked.

“Yes, do you have the number to medical records?”

“You can just look on our website.”

[Click. Dial tone]

What message are you sending with your billing and patient engagement strategies? Patients should not be billed for their care before they have received their results. The order of operations in these workflows matter. Are you patient-centered or patient wallet-centered? Patients can see the difference.

Yours In Unblocking Health,

Grace Cordovano, PhD, BCPA

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