First, let’s get the truth straight. Patients’ expectations of payments are being molded by their experience with other industries such as e-commerce. Everyone today expects an Amazon-like payment experience – transparent, flexible, and convenient.

If we consider the recent trends in healthcare, a large share of financial responsibility (almost 30%) has shifted to patients. With greater financial responsibility, the expectation now is to have better clarity and more transparency around payments. Thus, higher expectations and greater accountability are likely to drive the need for sophistication, transparency, and innovation in patient payments.

The case for transparency

Considering that credit card usage is so ubiquitous these days, let’s consider an example of a credit card payment transaction, to draw an analogy. Lisa is a 40-year-old busy sales executive who uses her credit card several times a month for her personal as well as official expenses. One day, Lisa receives a monthly credit bill of $898.82, without a detailed statement. How comfortable would she feel paying it? How troublesome would it be for her to differentiate her personal expenses from official expenses?

The case of healthcare payments is even more complicated in comparison to the above scenario. Lisa’s share would be determined on the basis of her co-pay, co-insurance, and deductibles agreed upon in her health plan. The determination of her share can get even more complicated if she had opted for an out-of-network provider, or if she has also taken a secondary plan.

Thus, providing transparency is crucial in helping Lisa determine whether she pays her bills on time, delays the payment, or decides not to pay.

The case for automation

Imagine a traditional setup at Dr. Jim’s office, where his staff mails paper statements to patients; a similar scenario exists at over 70% of provider practices as per an MGMA survey. Sarah, one of Dr. Jim’s assistants, is tasked with calling Lisa, and other patients like her, for collecting dues. When she makes the call, Sarah has to deal with the possibility that Lisa has either not received her paper statement or she has received but not read it, or perhaps the statement is not with Lisa for her to recollect the details.

Hence, Sarah has to factor in time for making multiple calls to each patient, while juggling her other responsibilities at the Practice. The time spent on billing-related clarifications, payment options, etc. again could greatly vary depending on the difficulty levels of each person she calls up. In many cases, the time spent by Sarah would far outweigh the dues that need to be collected from a patient.

One easy way out for many practices has been to outsource their collection responsibility, to one of many large and small vendors offering this service for a fee. Dr. Jim, however, like many other providers is not comfortable outsourcing, as he fears it may spoil the relationship, resulting in loss of patients. After all, outsourcing agencies are not concerned with patient experience or satisfaction.

On the other hand, if Dr. Jim’s Practice Management System had the capabilities that intelligently reached out to Lisa, to help her understand her financial responsibility, offered her payment options, and that too at her convenience, wouldn’t that be wonderful?

The magic of simple automation

Most Practice Management systems that exist today, can easily be enhanced to provide advanced automation capabilities that would improve patient collection, reduce the workload on office staff and, most importantly, improve patient satisfaction levels.

For one of our customers, an EMR/PMS vendor, an automated communication solution was developed and integrated, with a flexible payment gateway. It is helping their customers gain an accelerated payment collection by over 50%, within a short period. The workload on office staff which was spent on payment collection reduced dramatically, allowing them to focus on core business functions.

Rising consumer expectation, along with bad debt crisis needs to be tackled right now. If you are looking to modernize your platforms with an automation first approach, please write to us at itservices@healthasyst.com

Bhupesh Nadkarni

Bhupesh Nadkarni brings with him over 20 years of rich experience in IT services industry with expertise in Healthcare and Manufacturing domains.
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