Industry Insights from a Leader in Patient Experience: Improving The Patient Financial Experience, Healthcare Technology and AI
As part of an interview series with healthcare leaders across the country, the Olive team had the chance to interview Mindy McNamara about the biggest challenges facing healthcare today. Previous to her current role as Patient Financial Experience Coordinator at Yale New Haven, she received a Bachelor’s degree in Health Care Management and a Master’s degree in Business Analytics and Project Management from the University of Connecticut School of Business.
Q: To begin, tell us about your background in healthcare and your experience at Yale New Haven Health.
I started at Yale New Haven as an intern with patient financial services and have since served in several different roles in the revenue cycle over the past 8 years. I’ve had the opportunity to help patients in self-pay follow up and financial assistance in the billing call center. Eventually I moved into an operational training position where I gained a global understanding of the revenue cycle. As the industry was evolving and patient’s behaviors were shifting, leadership created the Patient Financial Experience coordinator role that I am in today. Being in this role for a year and a half has given me the opportunity to drive cultural transformation, process optimization, and technological innovations to drive value throughout the patient financial experience.
Q: How are you adapting to the behavioral shift we’ve seen in the industry as patients increasingly think and act like consumers? What changes have you seen?
We often hear people talking about the patient as the new payor or consumer. And over the last 5-10 years, as Netflix and Amazon disrupted their respective industries, people were redeveloping their expectations of what was considered a “good experience.” People want something that’s seamless, easy and gives instant satisfaction, and they need to know that what they’re getting – what they’re paying for – has value.
We’ve seen healthcare running parallel to that with the large number of people with high-deductible healthcare plans resulting in them having much higher patient financial responsibility. That shift is changing the way patients behave in this industry – they’re behaving more like consumers and expecting that same kind of personalized experience that Netflix, for example, gives them. It’s not good enough to just offer a great clinical experience, which is where we were 10 or 15 years ago, where if you had the best doctors, that was enough.
We’re in a very different time now. People always ask, “How do you help the patients through the financial process?” The key is knowing your patients. At Yale New Haven Health, delivering personalized care is only significant if you understand what’s meaningful to that patient individually. We want our patients to know that we’re here to partner with them. For example, communicating with the patient in channels they prefer, like text messaging, or being able to pull in behavioral analytics to drive personalized communications and experiences at the times they are best received by the patient.
Q: Where do you see opportunities for Artificial Intelligence and other advancing technologies to enhance the patient financial experience?
I think there’s a huge opportunity for AI and automation to humanize the patient experience. If at any point in the revenue cycle we can free up those tedious tasks that are holding up our most valuable resource – our employees – then they can be free to offer emotional support and meaningful interactions with our patients.
The industry can also get creative with how we’re using the automation and the analytics that result to personalize these experiences for our patients.
If you think from a patient perspective, receiving care is a vulnerable experience, whether they’re coming in with a child that needs stitches, or maybe they received a cancer diagnosis. Although those scenarios vary in levels of severity, the fear and anxiety can be overwhelming regardless. We need to be able to support our patients when they’re being bombarded with information, from medical records and scheduling, to meeting their doctor or discussing treatment. We need to remove the information that they don’t need and focus instead on customizing the experience and ensuring their experience is not overwhelming.
Q: You’re leading an initiative called “Super Service Behaviors”, tell us more about it. How is it impacting the culture at YNHH?
Super Service Behaviors is a program we developed over the last year and a half. As we took a step back and looked at the industry we were critical about what is most important to our patients. Through all of our studies, we asked patients, “What most impacts your experience?” and what they consistently say are the people factors – did they listen to me, did they communicate in a way that I can understand, did I feel valued and respected?
That trend tells us, our employees are the individuals with the greatest opportunity to impact the patient experience. We can use seamless technology or have a perfect patient portal, but we’re not going to continually achieve a best-in-class patient experience if we don’t start with our own employees..
Looking at the vision for the future of our patient financial experience, we partnered with front line staff across the revenue cycle to get their insights into what are examples or strategies that speak specifically to them. We custom built training off of their input and over a six week period, we went to all of delivery networks to host 125+ training sessions focusing on five core behaviors. And since then, we haven’t stopped.
We’re hyper focused on the sustainability of Super Service Behaviors and have a number of different programs that using to reinforce that content everyday. Through the “I’ve got the power challenge” we challenge our staff to focus on a core behavior for one week a month and ask them to come back to us with feedback about how it changed their experience or interactions with not only our patients, but also our company culture — it keeps our teams focused and our employees and their patients are noticing the difference.
Q: How do you see the patient financial experience influencing the clinical experience?
In my mind, there’s no question that everything we’re doing in the healthcare industry to improve patient financial experience is intrinsically linked to the clinical experience. If you go back to my previous example, anything that triggers fear or anxiety in a patient is both physically and emotionally taxing. There’s so much research out there that shows there are physical ramifications to negative emotional states that could impact not only patients’ current state, but potentially their clinical outcome. All of the work that we’re doing to humanize the experience helps build a relationship with patients and helps eliminate or reduce the negative emotions that impact their overall experience.