Spectrum Health Lakeland: Patient Financing Success Contributes to MAP Award Win

Spectrum Health Lakeland is a community-owned health system providing care to patients in southwest Michigan. Like Avita, Spectrum Health Lakeland had its own internally-developed patient payment plans. Over time, it became apparent the organization was not equipped to manage those plans, since financing is not a core function of a healthcare provider.

“We did patient financing, but it wasn’t optimal,” said chief financial officer Timothy Calhoun. “That’s not the fault of our people. We just didn’t have the right software or tools. That’s not the business we’re in.”

Leaders also recognized that the payment plans themselves did not meet the needs of many patients who required assistance.

“We had patients who came in and talked about needing different payment plan options other than the ones that Lakeland currently had,” said Jenna Howard, who at the time was manager of admitting and registration.

Spectrum Health Lakeland partnered with HELP to offer patients a payment plan that is interest-free for the first 12 months. The HELP program includes multiple payment options so that patients can resolve their balances in whatever way is the most convenient. In addition, HELP’s program includes brochures that clearly explain to patients what their options are depending on how much they can pay per month, and how long they need their plan to be.

“Having HELP is beneficial so that we can give patients a new solution depending on their ability to pay,” said director of revenue cycle and patient financial services Deborah Piggott. “The interest-free loan for the first 12 months is a good incentive for them to pay it off quicker.”

As another benefit, leaders found that discussing the HELP program with patients was an avenue to find out what the best financing option was for them.

“Conversations about HELP identified those who should really be screened for Medicaid or financial assistance, and those who truly have the ability to pay but maybe need to pay over time,” Howard said.

Through the first four years of this partnership, HELP has funded a total of $31 million in patient payment plans. HELP also took over Spectrum Health Lakeland’s in-house payment plans, valued at $3.9 million. While those results are noteworthy on their own, the most remarkable benefit of the HELP program is that it contributed to Spectrum Health Lakeland’s HFMA MAP Award win in 2016. The HFMA MAP Award recognizes revenue cycle performance, but also patient experience initiatives.

“HELP actually accepted the MAP Award with us because they were a partner in reducing A/R days and providing great customer service to our patients,” Calhoun said. “Our patients love the HELP program.”