Few things today conjure a more immediate negative reaction from Americans than the topic of medical bills. Once we finish lamenting on the striking growth of healthcare costs, not to mention the double-digit percent increase in a patient’s responsibility for those costs, we can all share personal anecdotes about the frustration of the medical bill itself. The paper statement is still literally hand-delivered by the postal service. The breakdown of physician services and facility charges requires a crack-team of code-breakers and medical sleuths to translate into plain english. And the payment options are often limited to inefficient and archaic forms of money transfer (personal bank checks!?) that baffle digital natives. Mailing a check is like watching a VHS tape — sure, you can probably find a way to do it, but why not go with an easier option?
While many of us can see the humor in it, all of this confusion around costs and billing actually has real consequences. And it’s decidedly not funny when someone must struggle with an incomprehensible and opaque medical bill (or series of them) while they also face a serious medical condition or illness of a family member. In the context of the health crisis and financial fallout (for both patients and providers) brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic, difficult circumstances have become more norm than exception.
At Cedar, our objective is to improve the patient experience—eliminating the unnecessary pain that patients and their families endure from confusing, difficult billing and administrative processes. Today, it seems that even if patients receive outstanding care, their overall experience is lacking. Patients deserve a modern, convenient and transparent financial experience with their healthcare providers — one that begins the moment a patient seeks out medical assistance and that continues throughout the entire care journey, including billing, payment and administrative resolution. This, in turn, helps ensure that health systems get paid for the valuable services provided.
A better patient experience is not only possible, it’s critical. And, our recently announced Series C round of funding, led by Andreessen Horowitz, will help us make that happen.
So, what should the healthcare consumer experience of the future look like? In our view, significantly different from how it looks today. In the near-term, we aim to innovate and expand our product capabilities to bring value to patients and healthcare providers across numerous fronts, creating a next-level experience that is:
1) Holistic (or, as we like to say, “end-to-end”). To help consumers better understand and prepare for their financial responsibility, we are leveraging the capabilities we developed with Cedar Pay, our post-visit patient billing and payment solution, to expand our platform and build out a pre-visit offering that engages patients earlier in the financial journey and enables meaningful price transparency. Our near-term pre-visit roadmap includes features such as appointment reminders, digital registration forms, insurance information capture and eligibility verification, communication of out-of-pocket price estimates, and prepayment options. Patients deserve a streamlined, easy-to-navigate experience throughout their entire care journey and we are committed to delivering it.
2) Seamless (and highly convenient). Imagine a world where patients have the ability to access healthcare financial and administrative data in one place, providing clear options and relevant information in order to easily engage with a medical institution. By building out our ecosystem of partners and external integrations, this is the reality we will provide. Cedar will continue to build and maintain scalable, battle-tested integrations to exchange data with market-leading electronic health records (EHRs). However, in parallel, we will incorporate data from a network of health insurers, HSA/FSA banks and payment processors, price estimate generators and credit reporting vendors will allow the patient experience to feel cohesive and ensure easy access to the right information at the right times.
3) Optimized for the individual. Cedar knows patients and understands their needs. We interact with hundreds of thousands of them on a daily basis. And by leveraging data science, design-led problem solving and experimentation, we deliver bespoke, engaging experiences that make sense for the individual. Similar to Netflix’s algorithms that help determine the streaming content each of us will likely enjoy, Cedar’s technology dynamically surfaces the most relevant financial information, assistance and outreach, where and when it’s needed. Options for financial aid or payment plans, answers to questions before they are asked, intuitive recommendations to save time and ease those stressful moments — this is what will continue to set Cedar’s platform apart from the alternatives. Our investments in data and technology focus on personalized experiences based on the unique needs of each consumer — better serving patients and helping healthcare organizations achieve better business results.
The next phase of Cedar’s vision will be to evolve from a patient financial engagement solution to a comprehensive healthcare consumer engagement platform. While dealing with a medical situation will never be on anyone’s list of favorite activities, we do have an exceptional opportunity to raise the bar for patients—and ensure that all elements of a patient’s journey live up to the highest standards of best-in-class medical care. As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated more clearly than ever, our healthcare providers are heroes, bravely serving our communities and putting their own lives on the line for all of us. We believe that the billing and administrative process should be just as empathetic, collaborative and personalized as the medical care that our healthcare institutions provide.
Florian Otto is Co-founder and CEO of Cedar. Prior to founding Cedar, Florian was an executive at Zocdoc where he drove the commercial adoption of the platform by health systems. Previously, Florian founded a daily deal company in Brazil (ClubeUrbano) that was sold to Groupon. Florian holds an M.D., D.D.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Freiburg, Germany.