Four Patient Payment Problems and Solutions to Lower Collection Costs

November 15, 2023

Patients have long turned to their healthcare providers for empathy and guidance through some of life’s toughest situations. However, when it comes to paying for the care they’ve received, many patients don’t experience the same guidance. 

You may be wondering: If a health system’s primary job is to focus on high-quality patient care, why does the financial experience matter? In fact, patients prioritize their payment experiences in healthcare much like they do in other industries, according to R1’s 2023 nationwide survey conducted in partnership with Researchscape. 

56% of patients said they were somewhat or very likely to seek a new healthcare provider if they have a poor billing experience.*

A poor billing experience can look like a lack of transparency. Overcharging. Cold communications. Questionable collection tactics. If patients experience any of these throughout the billing process, more than half of them are likely to find care elsewhere in the future. 

Luckily, health systems can put the patient experience first, which also plays a major role in increasing the likelihood of patients to pay—all while lowering costs. Check out these four patient payment solutions that address common problems and are proven to help your health system lower cost to collect — all while winning over patients and improving the patient experience. 

Problem #1: Patients don’t know their payment options upfront. 

68% of people who have gotten a bill in the last year but not paid it yet said it was because they couldn’t afford it.*

While there are many patients who can’t afford their healthcare bills, there are many more who simply don’t understand their options and think they can’t afford to pay. 

Understanding payment options is especially crucial in a world where healthcare bills are often the first to get deferred compared to basic necessity payments like mortgages, utilities and groceries. 


Patients are more likely to pay off their balance quickly when their provider is communicative about options for assistance or payment programs upfront. Customer-facing service teams can only offer the best possible payment when they have access to all of the information and the technology they need.  

Look for a patient payment solution partner that moves beyond propensity-to-pay algorithms. A higher rate of collection can be achieved with intelligent data analytics that assess likelihood to pay but also factors in past billing experiences, communication preferences, and outlying factors for each specific payment transaction. 

Problem #2: Patients don’t understand why they owe what they owe. 

50% of respondents want to wait to pay until they understand what the insurance company has paid.*

While most patients agree that communications are respectful, this doesn’t help them understand the “why” behind their balance. Patient payment solutions have come a long way in offering convenient, easy-to-use payment tools, but patients will remain skeptical about paying if they don’t understand the amount due on their bill.  


Choose a partner that provides ways for payments to be explained up front. One example is to provide explanation of benefits side by side with the healthcare bill to show what insurance is covering and what the patient will be responsible for paying. This helps patients feel more informed about their options and better equipped to decide how to proceed with payment before it goes to bad debt. 

Problem #3: Health systems continue to struggle with staffing shortages. 

55% of people want to talk to someone over the phone when they have questions, even if they prefer digital channels for other interactions/activities.*

However, when staffing shortages occur it can wreak havoc on the patient experience due to long hold times, inexperienced agents and a lower number of resolved billing issues.   


To address staffing shortages, a modern call center should tap into the benefits of both on-shore and off-shore agents to help lower cost to collect. You need call center agents who can handle a high volume of calls while remaining empathetic to customers and delivering account resolution.  

While short hold times are great, what matters even more is what happens when the customer service agent picks up the phone. A true partner should educate the patient so that next time the same issue arises, they may be able to solve the issue on their own.  

Look for a patient payment solution partner that goes above and beyond. Your call center team should understand payment options, charity care, financial aid and any other personalized options to truly find the solution that fits the patient best. This will require the proper technology to evaluate data so that the team can personalize each experience.

Problem #4: Health systems partner with vendors who have misaligned incentives. 

Many early out vendors are paid a portion of the dollars they collect. That means they’ll set their sights on the easiest dollars to collect for the least effort. Many early out vendors will simply ignore a balance that they don’t deem easy to collect even though it could be collectable with the right information. Plus, these partners often don’t consider a patient’s communication preferences or payment history. 


Partner with a single vendor whose incentives align with your health system. No health system wants to need to rely on a bad debt vendor. Health systems want their patients to be able to pay their bills on time. Using a single partner that aligns with your health system’s collection incentives will ensure your patients are getting the best overall experience, and you’re collecting the most possible dollars. Collaborate with a partner who can help you provide the best possible experience for the patient, which will in turn help you collect more. 

Leverage easy-to-use technology and compassionate services 

R1 can provide all of these account resolution features and more. We’re proud to use sophisticated data analytics to help health systems lower operating costs, address staffing shortages, and offer personalized and easy-to-understand communications. Our patient payment call center services average a first-call resolution rate of 85% with an under 60 second hold time. Plus, our teams are located both on-shore and off-shore to provide maximum scale and lower costs.  

If these challenges sound familiar, we’d love to talk about your health system’s specific goals and obstacles on your journey to improving the patient experience. Stay tuned for a full report highlighting how patients want health systems to interact with them to achieve optimal account resolution.  Provide your details here and we will send a copy of the report to your inbox as soon as it’s available! 

Author Bio: Content written on behalf of R1 RCM.

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