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Simplify Patient Payments, and They Will Pay

Taking the Easier Road to Patient Payments

It’s a pretty easy concept that takes on a pretty complex issue for most hospitals – collecting patient payments. The complexity of the issue is partially due to the rapid pace at which patient balances after insurance (PBAI) are rising. According to a 2018 TransUnion study, PBAI grew from 8 percent in 2012 to 12 percent in 2018. Patients are simply not prepared to take on that level of unexpected medical debt. As a result, providers really need to amp up their efforts to collect the funds that are due from patients.

I’ve read articles recently about how healthcare providers are lagging behind other industries in terms of payment innovation. But I don’t think improving payments from patients requires any kind of over-the-top innovation. I believe the simplest approach can be the most effective approach. Just go back to basics.

Simple but Effective

In traditional marketing, if you want to sell to a particular target audience, you make sure to infiltrate “their watering hole” – that is, wherever they are, you are. That may mean advertising on TV shows they watch or sponsoring events they attend or placing ads in print / digital publications they read Nothing overly innovative – just simple 101 stuff that happens to work.

The same concept applies to patient payments. If you want to collect more patient payments, the first step is to enable the payment channels where your patients are hanging out. Specifically, this means adding online and mobile digital payments to the paper-based, over the phone, and in-person payment channels that currently dominate the healthcare industry. You may not be able to do it over night but you can do it over time.

266 Million Reasons

There are nearly 266 million smartphone users in the United States. The average number of times we check our mobile phones has grown to a whopping 96 times per day. That translates into once every 15 minutes. We’re hooked on our phones, so it makes complete sense to not only enable the mobile channel for healthcare payments but to engage patients through it as well.

Consider that 75% of mobile phone users say they wouldn’t mind receiving text messages from brands – provided they’ve opted-in. This opens an entirely new communication channel for patient engagement. I’m thinking payment reminders, payment receipts, account balances, etc. Engage them through their preferred channels, and patients will respond.

Card-on-File Recurring Installments

Not only do we Americans love our smartphones, but we love convenience. What is more convenient than “set-it” and “forget-it” installment payments? Enabling your patients to create recurring digital payments means you can count on receiving a set amount at the same time every month. Your patients won’t even have to think about paying you – it just automatically happens. And considering the growth in patient payment responsibility, that’s a very good thing for providers.

When the Simple Becomes Complex

While opening up patient preferred payment channels and methods is a simple and effective way of increasing their payments, it can become a painful administrative endeavor to reconcile all those payment channels.

The tip to avoiding this back-office headache: make sure your payment partner has fully integrated all channels with your EHR / EMR. It will make reconciliation and reporting much smoother.

Science Behind Simplicity

Accepting payments through patient preferred channels is a simple yet effective starting point that you can engage pretty quickly. Providers can work toward further simplifying the process by including:

  • Upfront cost estimates
  • Easy-to-understand bills
  • Easy-to-manage payment plans
  • Individualized contact cadence and methods

Each of those requires a little more data science behind the effort but considering that PBAI is 12 percent and growing, it’s well worth it.

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