Is patient administrative burden a barrier to care for your current and future patients?

Most healthcare providers understand the critical importance of an effective patient retention and acquisition strategy. However, there may be unique factors that should be considered to make it easier for patients to access the expert care you provide.  

For instance, a recently published study indicated that in the U.S., administrative tasks can pose such a burden for patients that they may lead to delays in care and/or keep patients from accessing it altogether. 

In the study, “Patient administrative burden in the US health care system,” researchers used data from the March 2019 Health Reform Monitoring Survey to “assess the prevalence of patient administrative tasks and whether they are associated with delayed and/or foregone care.”

Noting that studies related to the administrative costs of healthcare have primarily focused on clinicians and healthcare organizations, the researchers wanted to better understand how the administrative complexity of the U.S. healthcare system affects patients and their ability to access care. 

Common Administrative Tasks for Patients 

To understand how patients are impacted, the researchers focused on five types of administrative tasks patients commonly perform:

  • Appointment scheduling
  • Obtaining information from an insurer or provider
  • Obtaining prior authorizations
  • Resolving insurance or provider billing issues
  • Resolving premium problems 

Then, they examined how the need to perform these tasks affected “two important measures of their burden: delayed and forgone care.” 

Findings revealed that among the insured, non-elderly adults surveyed regarding the previous 12 month period:

  • 73.2% reported undertaking at least one of the five tasks
  • 55.2% reported undertaking multiple types of tasks
  • 5.2% reported undertaking all five types of tasks

The most common tasks reported were contacting a provider to make an appointment (64%) and information seeking (57%). The latter included “seeking network information, other information from insurers or providers, and gathering information to share between providers.” 

Less common tasks were billing problems with either an insurer or provider (26%), prior authorizations (21%), and premium problems (9%).

The Impact on Patient Care

More importantly, 24.4% of respondents reported “delayed or foregone care due to administrative tasks.” 

Additionally, “One in three people who undertook a task experienced delayed and/or missed care, ranging from 24.7% of people who sought an appointment to 45.6% of people who had a problem with their premium payment.” 

Findings also revealed that although appointment seeking and information seeking were viewed as the “least onerous,” a larger percentage of people were required to carry them out. 

And, while the other three tasks—insurance or provider billing issues, prior authorizations, and premium problems—weren’t encountered as often, they were considered “more burdensome” compared to the first two.   

Regarding which demographic seemed to be most affected, the study found that “Disability status is the demographic characteristic most strongly associated with administrative burden; people with disabilities are more likely to engage in every type of administrative task and to report every type of burden.” 

As a result of the overall findings, the researchers concluded that:

  • “Patients frequently do administrative work that can create burdens resulting in delays in care and not getting needed care due to difficulties with administrative tasks.”
  • “Enhancing measurement of patient administrative work and associated burdens may identify opportunities for improving quality, value, and patient experience with the US health system.”

Taking a Patient-Centric Approach

Results such as these reinforce the need for a patient-centric approach to better understand the challenges patients commonly face. As the study notes, this approach is often referenced within efforts to enhance patient engagement within the context of care. 

However, as the results indicate, the need for a patient-centric approach is critically important within patient retention and recruitment strategies, too. This is especially true since the two tasks most commonly performed—appointment scheduling and obtaining information from an insurer or provider—often occur when a patient is getting started with a new healthcare provider. 

In that light, it’s important to examine whether prospects who are considering your practice may face burdensome administrative tasks that could be a barrier to accessing the services you provide. By making the healthcare journey as easy as possible for them—and letting them know about your efforts—you’ll stand apart from competitors who may not be doing the same.  

Contact us today to find out how we can help you elevate your healthcare marketing strategy.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you adapt to the evolving marketing landscape and ramp up your efforts, please contact us today.

Published On: January 26, 2022

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