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COVID-19: An open letter from Cedar's CEO

Cedar’s true north is to improve the patient financial experience. This mission is at the heart of everything we do and is what drives us to come to work and solve complex problems each and every day.

While the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has certainly disrupted the lives of our employees and has induced a shared sense of anxiety across our company, we have not let it get in the way of our mission.

First, it’s absolutely worth mentioning that we are fortunate at Cedar to have an amazing IT team that has always made it a top priority to enable remote work and technology-enhanced collaboration. It’s been incredible to watch our Slack and Zoom usage spike over the past week and see all the impromptu video hangouts and virtual happy hours taking place.

However, it’s that underlying mission that keeps our team intrinsically motivated to find better ways to help our clients best serve their patients. And in the midst of the global public health crisis that we currently find ourselves in, our drive has only intensified and our mission feels more important than ever before.

Because under normal circumstances, nobody ever really likes to get a medical bill. But could you imagine receiving one today? Especially if you’re one of the many Americans who works in hard-hit industries like retail or food service, who in the best of times live paycheck to paycheck and can barely afford to pay their monthly health insurance premiums.

And it’s not just patients; providers are also feeling a heightened level of insecurity. Hospital under-capacity, the CMS recommendation to delay elective surgeries and non-essential procedures and lack of clarity around reimbursement for infection cases places significant strain on provider operations healthcare workers and can impede their ability to deliver the highest quality care.

At Cedar, we’ve been thinking a lot about these people, some of whom are our family members, our friends and our neighbors, as well as the organizations on the front lines of the response effort. As uncertainty abounds, we ask our provider friends to consider the below advice when it comes to patient billing, which we feel has the potential to benefit all parties.

Educate through all channels

Over the past few weeks there has been an abundance of misinformation regarding the coronavirus, some of which could potentially cause harm. As trusted experts, providers must cut through the noise in any way possible to educate patients about preventive health measures and can even leverage billing outreach to share properly-vetted resources. Billing statements can work double duty and direct patients to coronavirus-related content on your website or that of the CDC, in addition to communicating their financial obligation. We are working with several healthcare providers to do just that.

Give patients solutions

Amid all the economic volatility, it’s helpful to remind patients of the various ways they can resolve their balances beyond payment. For example, if you offer payment plans, clearly call it out in billing communications and offer instructions on how to enroll. It’s also helpful to encourage patients who have questions or worries during this time to use digital communication channels instead of phoning support lines. Cedar’s clients have reported that their call centers have seen an increase in inbound volume and to help alleviate, we are directing patients to use our live chat feature for quicker response times.

Demonstrate compassion beyond the treatment

Kindness goes a long way during times of crisis. Whether it’s in a text message, on a paper statement or on a phone call, use empathetic language that puts your organization on the same level as patients, especially when communicating financial matters. Going as far as extending dunning or suppressing billing outreach, if feasible, can also have an outsized impact on helping patients better manage their medical bills during this challenging time.

As we all continue to adapt to this temporary new reality, it’s important that we care for each other in whatever capacity that we can. Healthcare providers have the unique opportunity to help people at scale, and regardless of whether it’s through clinical, administrative or financial encounters, you can incrementally make a difference in mitigating the negative consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

Because as we continue to believe, it pays to care.


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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.

Tags: Patient Billing