Healthcare News & Insights

Patient confusion costs billions a year: What hospitals can do

From payors to providers, there are a lot of levels to health care. Patients often complain about the healthcare industry being difficult to navigate, and their confusion can be expensive. 

When patients don’t understand how to interact with hospitals or other healthcare systems, your administrative burden increases, resulting in lost revenue and dissatisfied patients.

A recent report from Accenture reveals more than half of U.S. consumers don’t understand how to navigate the current healthcare industry, which results in approximately $4.8 billion in administrative costs for payors.

And the demographics for those confused patients may surprise you. Half of the patients with low healthcare consumer literacy have a college degree, and 97% have graduated high school.

Although the Accenture report looked specifically at the cost to insurance carriers, the lessons learned can be applied across the board.

Simplifying how patients interact with your facility and improving healthcare consumer literacy clears up confusion and makes your staffers’ jobs easier.

Too much confusion

Low healthcare consumer literacy can impact how patients choose their health plans, providers and facilities, and it puts a strain on your administrative staff. When patients aren’t sure how to proceed in their healthcare journey, they rely heavily on customer support and assistance.

It also affects patient health. Many of the consumers who don’t understand health care are often at higher risk of developing dangerous chronic conditions. When they don’t know who to turn to, these conditions go untreated, and their health deteriorates faster.

And when those conditions are high-cost, such as cancer, the strain on the entire industry increases.

Simplifying the industry

It’s impossible for one organization to completely simplify the complexities of the healthcare industry on its own, but there are steps your facility can take to improve patient literacy.

Encourage providers and employees to use language that’s easy to understand, rather than relying on complicated medical jargon. This is especially important for customer service staff who are interacting with confused patients on a daily basis.

You may even want to create a resource for patients with questions about their insurance or care, such as a handout or flyer defining common terms.

Reach out to confused patients on their terms, with community outreach tactics. Marginalized communities are often the ones most in need of medical intervention and least likely to get it, so brainstorm strategies to get info to those patients in a way they’ll understand.

Simplifying and streamlining the healthcare process can’t be done overnight, but taking steps to ease the burden on patients helps them remain in control of their health and well-being.

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