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The ever-increasing cost of healthcare is a major concern in the United States. Physicians strive to improve care and provide an optimal patient experience but increased patient payment responsibility poses challenges for revenue cycle management. While healthcare organizations can reduce administrative burdens and increase practice efficiency by outsourcing medical billing, Healthcare IT News reports that recent surveys found that rising medical costs are a major concern across all groups of patients.

High Health Care CostsThe Oliver Wyman and FORTUNE Knowledge Group survey was conducted online among 2,016 health-insured U.S. consumers in October and November 2016. The survey found that while most people are quite satisfied with their medical care, their top concern is costs. The survey identified three main issues among patients as:

  • Rising insurance premiums
  • Higher out-of-pocket costs for care not covered by insurance
  • Growing costs of prescription drugs

The poll also revealed that two groups of healthcare consumers – millennials and caregivers were interested in innovative healthcare offerings.

Millennials want to experiment with new healthcare offerings, are more interested in innovative products and services, and view healthcare as more “shop-able” online. More than half of the respondents in this category were found to be very interested in new healthcare formats that may require out-of-pocket payments such as retail clinics, home visits by a doctor, and same-day appointments.

Up to 34% caregivers were found to be more interested in accessing additional healthcare services than people without caregiving roles (14% of non-caregivers). They are more likely to be willing to pay a third party to help with medication management for their loved ones and to get medical help via a 24-hour helpline or via computer. The main concerns among caregivers are access issues such as restrictive provider networks and lack of insurance plan options.

Another survey from Bankrate found that:

  • Overall, more than 1 in 2 people were found to be worried about their ability to afford health insurance in the future.
  • Millennials comprise the highest proportion of financially unwell health consumers and 31% said they avoided seeking care due to the high costs of services.
  • Other groups that avoided care due to costs are: 25 percent of Gen X, 23 percent of Boomers, and only 8 percent of the Silent Generation.
  • The low number in Silent Generation is due to the fact that most seniors have Medicare coverage.

The surveys also revealed that patients are now recognizing their right to shop for health care just as they would do any other product or service, though success would depend on having the time and information to compare providers in terms of quality and prices.

High Health Care CostsThere are many strategies to cut healthcare costs without affecting quality. According to an article in the NEJM Catalyst, physicians should be trained to consider costs for everyone affected by their decisions – especially patients. In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges Teaching for Quality program trains clinical faculty to teach cost sensitivity in medical school. Further, experts say future physicians need to be trained to understand the impact of their decisions in terms of the potential impact on future spending – not just current cost.

Preventing hospital admissions and emergency room visits can reduce costs for both patients and health systems, though patient preferences and potential risks should be considered to make decisions about whether and where to perform certain tests.

Whenever possible, physicians should prescribe generic drugs. Priced lower than and as effective as their branded counterparts, generic drugs help manage pharmacy spending and improve access to important therapies for patients who cannot afford branded drugs. Enhanced e-prescribing and connectivity with electronic health records would allow physicians to view their patients’ insurance information in real time, understand their out-of-pocket drug costs, and identify lower cost drug options.

Physicians play a key role in helping to prevent chronic diseases which are the most common and costly of all health problems. The CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion reports that health-damaging but modifiable behaviors such as tobacco use, insufficient physical activity, poor eating habits, and excessive alcohol use are responsible for much of the illnesses, disability, and premature death related to chronic disease.

Technology, administrative expenses, and hospital/practice costs also have a significant impact on rising overall healthcare costs. Outsourcing medical billing and coding is an ideal strategy to reduce providers’ costs as handling billing in-house is a more expensive option when all related costs such as manpower, software, hardware and infrastructure are taken into account.