Insights From Our Editors

What Financial Factors Do Patients Consider Before Seeking Your Care?

Sept. 16, 2015

When making elective health care decisions, consumers simultaneously research both the procedure and how they will pay for it, according to a recently released study conducted by Rothstein Tauber, Inc., on behalf of health care financing company CareCredit, a division of Synchrony Financial.

Optometric care and ophthalmology were among the six medical specialties studied in the July 2015 Consumers’ Path to Healthcare Purchases Study, which endeavored to determine the ways consumers research, consider and purchase health care services.

The study found that consumers took an average of five steps over 76 days to conduct research before committing to an elective health care purchase. The average number of days to a decision in the optical field was 35.3, and the average spend in optical was $292. A majority of patients (62 percent) viewed optical care as an absolute necessity. Decisions were influenced by the level of need, cost, how insurance benefits impact out-of-pocket expenses and perceived risk.

The 2015 Consumers’ Path to Healthcare Purchases Study gives us important insights into how people make buying decisions. Let’s examine the four key issues identified in this study, and make sure we are implementing effective solutions based around these key issues in our practices.

First is NEED. Marketing 101 is to identify what the person wants or needs, and then supply it. We must utilize our pre-examination histories to make sure we are identifying patients’ needs in four different arenas: home, school, work and play. Take a look at your pre-examination history forms. Do they adequately address all four arenas to identify specific patient needs, or could they be done better? Do your doctors and optical staff know, before they even address the patient, what the specific patient needs are?

Second is COST. The real issue here is perceived cost. People will pay for things they value and believe are a good value. A key point here is that price is not the same as perceived cost. The same price can be perceived as too high in one office and just right in another – yet, it is the same price. Take a look at how your physical office, your doctors and your staff position perceived value. Do they dread talking about fees, or is it a natural conversation because you have helped them script and practice their answers? How in your office have you addressed the issue of cost?

Third is OUT OF POCKET EXPENSES. This is an area that must be managed properly in a practice. Does your staff respond with “Oh no, you have XYZ insurance, their reimbursement is horrible,” or with, “Isn’t it great that you have insurance to help contribute to your driving sunwear so that you’ll be safe when you are driving in the sun?” Scripting here with staff to situations that you know are going to come up over and over every day is essential. The key to handling this with patients is to define what is it you want the patient to do. Define that, then the scripts practically write themselves. Another key in this area is to make it easy for the patient to pay. The harder they feel it is to pay, the less likely they are to reach into their pockets and pay. How easy is it in your office for the patient to pay?

Fourth is PERCEIVED RISK. Again, perception to the patient is reality. That is true no matter what we think. We may totally disagree with the patient’s perception but that doesn’t matter because it is the patient who makes the decision to purchase or not. The easiest way to lower the perceived risk on anything is to give a 100 percent guarantee. This takes away the patient’s fear of trying something. If you could increase your total sales of progressive front and back digitally surfaced lenses by 30 percent, and it cost you a 1 percent remake fee, would you do it? We know that 95 percent+ of people in Transitions lenses repurchase the lenses. Are you willing to absorb the 1-2 percent who want to change from Transitions to something else in order to double your Transitions sales overnight?

It may be time to stop focusing on what we could lose, and start focusing on what we could gain. An even more important way to look at this is to start looking at what our patients could gain.

Take this week to make sure you are implementing effective solutions for the four key issues identified in the 2015 July 2015 Consumers’ Path to Healthcare Purchases Study, and watch the care being delivered to your patients improve.

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