Recently, there’s been a lot of noise around the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) price transparency mandate that’s left many healthcare professionals wondering how it might affect the patients’ price shopping experience.

The mandate stated that beginning January 1, 2019, CMS will require all hospitals to post their standard charges online via a machine-readable format.

Their intention behind this mandate is that by requiring hospitals to post their charges online, they are giving patients more access to pricing data, and driving competition, which should in theory, lower costs.

But with hospitals being required to post all of their standard charges online many hospitals executives are afraid of the negative implications it may have on the patient’s ability to understand their true out-of-pocket cost. In fact, according to a study from Black Book Research, 90 percent of patients no longer feel obligated to stay with health care providers that don’t deliver on positive online experiences.

In other words, take care of your website and your website will take care of you.

This begs the question “How can organizations best present and communicate this message to their patients so they’re not deterred away by the CDM rates?”

Three words: Control. The. Message.

You may be thinking “Yeah, easier said than done.” And while that may be true, providers can save a great deal of their time and money by planning ahead for development and implementation of the message to your online users.

Controlling the Message Perception
By developing a controlled strategic message, hospitals can control how the patient will perceive the message rather than reacting to how the patient perceives the message.

Why is this important, you ask?

Pretend that you work in public relations for a company that has been accused of knowingly disposing toxic chemicals from its factories into the air. Rather than waiting around for the media to spin the story however they’d like, it’s more efficient for your company to get ahead of the story by addressing the issue right away so you can control how the public perceives the incident.

The same principle applies toward controlling the pricing message. Take control over the online message to ensure that everyone within your hospital is on the same page, especially if your organization is part of a larger health system. You don’t want to put your hospital staff in the position of having to explain the complexities of the Chargemaster pricing.

Looking Down the Road
The other tip for developing a new message strategy is to look down the road to see if there are any industry trends that may inhibit the longevity of your message.

And with CMS’ price transparency final ruling deadline quickly approaching, CMS has shown signs of a plan to unveil a Sought Source Notice- essentially serving to find vendors for a web-based platform that can support healthcare pricing comparison and bidding activity.

What does this mean for the patient?

It means that they will be using a CMS selected vendor as their main source of getting pricing information, making it that much more important for hospitals to control their pricing message on their own website. It also means that CMS might be planning to move to a retail-like model where patients can shop for healthcare services the same way people shop for automobiles on cars.com.

With all the news circulating around the CMS’ price transparency final ruling, controlling the message is the only way to establish and maintain continuity with your patients.

This means taking control over how the patient perceives the message by reacting quickly to develop a strategic message that resonates with your audience and one that everyone within your organization can agree on.

Most hospitals are only looking to satisfy the CMS mandate but those hospitals that provide a full estimate will be the ones reaping the benefits when it comes time for the patient to compare rates against another hospital. And with the deadline quickly approaching on January 1, 2019, hospitals cannot afford to publish a message that has not been tested and approved by your organization.

Photo: adventtr, Getty Images



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