Avita Health System: Still Generating Positive Results After Six Years

Avita Health System serves patients in Crawford, Richland, and Marion counties in central Ohio. Avita formed in 2011 when two community hospitals merged, and a couple years later was preparing to open a new facility. At the time, many patients were on long-term payment plans that Avita had developed internally. The payment plans had unspecified
terms, resulting in a great deal of outstanding receivables.

“We had committed to our internal payment plans, but we were getting ready to open a new hospital,” said Rhonda Ridenour, director of patient financial services at Avita. “Having that cash on hand was really important.”

In addition to needing an infusion of cash, Avita recognized it needed more financing options to better serve its patients. In particular, there were several patients with outstanding balances who had the ability to pay, but needed extra time.

Avita partnered with HELP on two projects. First, HELP took over and managed Avita’s legacy payment plans, which had a value of $1.5 million. Second, Avita and HELP worked together to offer new patient financing options. Avita would continue to offer its own payment plan for patients who needed no more than three months to pay. Patients who needed more than three months could apply for a HELP payment plan, which was interest-free for the first 12 months.

To assist Avita with offering this new financing option, representatives from HELP came on-site and trained Avita’s financial counselors on how patients could apply for the payment plan. HELP also provided brochures, template letters to patients, and scripting to make it easier for financial counselors to discuss the new program.

“The staff training was really important,” Ridenour said. “Getting buy-in from our own financial counselors was key since they are the ones promoting it with patients.”

As for the patients, there was initially some concern at Avita that patients would not be receptive to payment plans offered by an outside party. Those concerns were put to rest once the HELP program was in place.

“We braced ourselves, but the community reaction was positive,” said Ridenour. “The feedback we got was that when the patients talked with the HELP Financial team, they really did model the customer service that Avita wants to provide.”

The financial results for Avita have also been positive. When Avita initially engaged with HELP, they budgeted for a 15% recourse rate on new payment plans. In fact, the recourse rate never approached that number, and was 5.1% in July 2019. Furthermore, over the course of the relationship, HELP has funded a total of $11.5 million in payment plans, supporting
Avita’s patients while keeping the organization financially healthy.

By implementing best practices for patient communications, training financial counselors, and giving patients an option to resolve their balances over time, Avita continues to generate positive results—even after six years.

“Our success is due to the fact we’ve stuck with the HELP program—we embraced it and wove it into everything we do,” Ridenour said. “They’re not just our vendor. They’re our partner.”