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Patients are coming back, get ready

How far we’ve come since last summer. At this time last year you couldn’t turn on your computer without seeing a story about how to make it through the pandemic. Now, for those that took the right steps, the story becomes how to best take advantage of the pent-up demand that is driving every corner of the market to levels never imagined. Barron’s recently interviewed Geoff Martha, the CEO of the medical device company Medtronic, who’s business focuses on elective procedures, who indicated “We’re nearing a full recovery, but we’re not there..we’re at anywhere from 85 to 100%, in some cases beyond 100%, of pre-pandemic levels on a procedure-by-procedure basis in the U.S.”

A recent survey of nearly 100,000 physicians across 100 specialties conducted by Kaufman Hall, highlighted the volatility in healthcare spend caused by the pandemic, and the expected rise in patient visits, some of which is already playing out. The report shows the varied effects across specialties of the pandemic on physician productivity, with primary care physicians seeing the most robust recovery due to a more patient-centric approach. It continues to highlight that while initial diagnosis of diseases like cancer dropped in 2020, they are expected to drastically increase in 2021. The 2021 Milliman Medical Index (MMI) report forecasts an 8.4% increase in healthcare costs, from $26,078 to $28,256, for a family of four. 

All of this would point back to something Scott Houghton wrote about Medical billing being a good business to be in right now, and with patients heading back to their doctors for primary care and elective procedures, this couldn’t be more true. Analysts at Needham asked 255 people about their willingness to undergo elective procedures. “The March survey showed 56% of people would be comfortable having a procedure done within the next three months, compared to 44% of respondents to the January survey.”

The investments made in patient-centric offerings like telemedicine and patient bill engagement is setting up medical billers to take advantage of the pent-up demand. Patients are now accustomed to personalized, on-demand engagement, and will lean into those doctors (and billers) that continue to support them in these areas. Just as retailers like Best Buy, Walmart and Target are continuing, or increasing, investment to adapt to conveniences born out of the pandemic, so should medical billers to capture additional market share from the billers who stick to traditional paper. The post-pandemic patient, while looking forward to shaking hands with their doctor again, is accustomed to a personalized digital payment experience and is hungry for engagement that the traditional paper statement can no longer provide.

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