Healthcare's changing payment paradigm: Why providers are upgrading the patient financial experience

Consumers across all industries, including healthcare, want convenience and simplicity when paying bills.

During an Sept. 6 webinar sponsored by ACI Worldwide and hosted by Becker's Hospital Review; Terri Meier, system director of patient revenue cycle for UC San Diego Health; Mark Archer, co-founder of Noggintechs; and Mahala Johnson, director of product management for ACI Worldwide; discussed implementing consumer-friendly payment solutions to improve the patient financial experience and provider collections.

As competition in the healthcare industry intensifies, and patients take on responsibility for a larger portion of their medical bills under high-deductible health plans, providers should look to increase patient satisfaction by improving the payment process.

In a healthcare industry where competition is stiff, and disruptors are around every corner, it is imperative providers keep patients coming back, Ms. Meier explained.

"Even if the clinical care is good, the last thing [patients] remember is getting that bill and the struggles they had paying the bill," Ms. Meier said.

Moreover, studies show that 65 percent of patients would leave a provider for a better payment experience, further exemplifying the need for patient financial satisfaction, Mr. Archer added.

The 'old way' of payment collection in healthcare isn't working

Despite the increased patient involvement in bill pay, providers aren't doing enough to meet patient expectations, Mr. Archer explained. Patients often receive confusing bills, are treated the same despite having different financial situations and have limited payment options.

For example, although 85 percent of consumers interactions with corporations will be online by 2020, about 58 percent of providers still primarily rely on paper statements and just 13 percent currently accept mobile pay, said Mr. Archer.

What is the 'new way' of payment collection

To ensure patient financial satisfaction when collecting payments, providers need to drive patient engagement, offer individualized payment options, ensure clarity and determine the best mode of bill delivery. Providers can achieve this by leveraging technologies, including machine learning, predictive analytics and mobile payment.

Here are four key steps for improving patient satisfaction with health IT payment solutions:

1. Establish clarity. A patient's bill must be easy to understand. Providers can use a technology solution that ensures the bill is consumer-friendly and readable. Additionally, providers can use data to understand the patient's financial situation, while also leveraging data to make sure the patient understands their bill.

2. Treat every patient as an individual. Technology, such as predictive analytics, can give providers specific insight into a patient's financial circumstances early in the care process. This allows for the identification of suitable payment plan options for each patient, which will ultimately drive better collections.

3. Drive patient empowerment. Patients want to pay their bill and feel like they have control of the conversation around bill pay. Machine learning technology allows providers to send patients personalized payment plans via the right mode of delivery at the optimal time.

4. Meet patient preferences. Patients want convenience. With smartphone usage climbing, optimizing e-bills for compatibility with mobile devices and sending text message reminders can help collections and boost patient satisfaction. "The way to approach patients and get them engaged is through mobile phone technology," Mr. Archer said.

"If you improve the financial experience for patients, it not only shows up in higher payments but the number of people that pay and the average amount they pay also increases," Mr. Archer added.

The case for investing in real-time payments

Real-time payment solutions, which instantly transfer money from one bank account to another, are coming to healthcare. By 2022, this payment method is expected to grow more than 100 percent in the industry, according to a Lipis Advisors forecast cited by Ms. Johnson.

Because consumers have grown accustomed to immediacy, convenience and simplicity, real-time payments could be the tool healthcare providers need to ensure patient financial satisfaction while improving collections, Ms. Johnson said.

"The benefits for providers include not only the ability to improve cash flow, but also the potential to improve patient experience by providing visibility into payment status in real-time, which could reduce operational costs by not having to address patient payment inquiries," Ms. Johnson explained.

Overall, the payment paradigm in healthcare is changing and patients are demanding convenience, simplicity and flexible payment options. To meet patient expectations, providers can leverage technology to not only improve the patient financial experience but also their collections.

To learn more about ACI Worldwide and its payment solution for healthcare, click here.

To listen to the webinar, click here.

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