Healthcare has been transitioning from paper-based processes to electronic transactions for years – but the pace has been a bit slow and sickly. Despite regulatory mandates to convert payments to electronic channels, much of the industry still largely relies on paper and telephone calls for billings and payment. According to the Trends in Healthcare Payments Eighth Annual Report, a whopping four out of five of consumers get their healthcare bills in the mail. And on the flipside, 86 percent of providers report receiving paper checks and EOPs from one or more of their payers.
It’s not surprising that consumers are frustrated.
Technology advances have empowered consumers with a retail mindset – 24/7 shopping opportunities, delivery on demand, and unprecedented ability to compare prices and products and services. They expect the same payment experience and innovations found in other industries – where costs are communicated clearly and payment options are convenient. Financial transactions in healthcare should be no different.
Consumers prefer to pay their bills through online payment channels. According to InstaMed, 75 percent of consumers pay their household bills online. And with the growing popularity of payment cards and digital wallets, 72 percent of consumers report a preference to pay their medical bills electronically as well.
Healthcare providers need to recognize that the patient financial experience has become just as important as the patient care experience. The InstaMed survey points out that patients are ready for their healthcare providers to catch up with the rest of the world’s digital revolution. Seventy-nine percent of consumers still receive a paper medical bill, but only 21 percent of consumers actually want to use checks to make healthcare payments.
Unfortunately, the healthcare industry still views consumers as patients – not purchasers. When it comes to digital payments and processing, U.S. healthcare is a fragmented smattering of systems that lack universal standards. Many healthcare providers still collect and deposit paper checks, and manually post and reconcile claim payments in their accounting systems. A PwC Health Research Institute (HRI) survey summed-up the industry’s billing and payment systems best – a horse-and-buggy model in a world contemplating driverless cars.
There is a cure.
Admittedly, healthcare is more complex than most other industries – a tangle of relationships between patient, healthcare provider and insurer. And amongst these relationships are payment and billing systems that really don’t work well together. But there is a cure – outsourcing.
Financial services providers continue to drive payment systems and technology advances – including mobile apps, online portals and other innovations that offer more payment convenience to healthcare consumers. Outsourcing to these financial specialists helps healthcare providers consolidate their billings and payments systems, and to navigate through the maze of new technology and state-of-the-art automation.
Healthcare providers benefit by working more closely with their banks or other payment processing vendors. Outsourcing billings and payments processing helps to speed along the patient payment process, while increasing back office efficiencies. Healthcare providers that make this shift – offering convenient, seamless, affordable, quality, reliable and transparent billing and payment options – will retain more customers (and attract new ones).