TransUnion Healthcare has processed an increasing number of financial assistance transactions every year since it began tracking that data.

A new analysis from TransUnion Healthcare found that the number of financial assistance transactions that it processed increased 55% between September 2020 and September 2021.

That’s an indication that hospitals are working more proactively to understand patients’ financial needs, the company says.

The analysis looked at data from more than 1,000 hospitals and physician practices. TransUnion Healthcare conducted these transactions to validate a patient’s identity, determine charity options, and assess their ability and propensity to pay.

The increased number of financial assistance transactions was also likely exacerbated by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

“Our analysis found this increase reflects both higher numbers of patients struggling with medical bills and hospitals seeing more value in using our data to efficiently and accurately determine which patients truly qualify for financial assistance,” Jonathan Wiik, principal of healthcare strategy at TransUnion Healthcare, tells HealthLeaders via email.

TransUnion Healthcare began collecting this data in September 2018 and has tracked an upward year-over-year trend, amounting to a 270% increase since that time.

Its financial assistance transactions increased 49% from September 2019-2020 and 60% from September 2018-2019.

A separate TransUnion Healthcare consumer survey of patients’ healthcare billing experiences found that 35% of those with outstanding medical bills said those bills deterred them from seeking healthcare in the past 12 months.

“This data reflect the increased financial pressure on healthcare systems as well as patients who are struggling with the burden of high healthcare costs,” Wiik said in a statement. “We are recommending that hospitals engage patients confidently and increase transparency and communication in regard to billing, beginning with providing patients a clear understanding of the cost of care at intake, and then streamlining financial clearance and charity screening throughout the revenue cycle.”