Guest post by Jeff Lin, senior vice president of product management, InstaMed.
The amount a patient must now pay before a health plan covers any portion of the balance has increased 67 percent in five years, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This surge in patient responsibility is driven primarily by enrollment in high-deductible health plans which require patients to pay towards a certain minimum balance before the plan benefits begin. According to HealthPocket, deductibles are expected to increase 8 percent to $6,480 for a family plan, further increasing patient balances.
Despite this growing trend, many patients leave their visit without any expectation that they will receive a bill or a discussion about how to make a payment. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that providers can expect to collect only 50 percent to 70 percent of a patient balance after a visit (McKinsey and Company). As patients’ out-of-pocket expenses continue to grow, healthcare providers of all sizes will need to focus on improving the payment experience to ensure patient collections and the future of their organization.
Make Healthcare Payments Simple
Providers can look to best practices from other industries to guarantee their revenue while making it simple for patients to pay their responsibility. Just like reserving a hotel room, providers can require that all patients present a payment method before the time of service to ensure the responsibility is automatically paid with low staff intervention. Patients are familiar with this process from their experiences in other industries and often prefer automated, simple payments. Providers can leverage innovative payment technology to securely automate payment collection with saved payment methods.
Add Healthcare Payments to Household Bills
Nearly 70 percent of patients surveyed said they pay their non-healthcare bills such as cable or utility bills online or through a bank bill portal, according to the 2014 Trends in Healthcare Payments Annual Report. This demonstrates that patients prefer to make payments through convenient payment channels. However, these payment channels are simply not always available in the healthcare industry. To enhance the payment experience, providers can easily allow patients to pay online or through a website where they are already accustomed to visiting and paying bills. For instance, many health plans offer member portals,which enable patients to manage claims and view benefit amounts. By enabling patients to make online payments to all of their providers through these member portals, providers will receive a payment as soon as the claim is adjudicated – all without ever sending a statement or making a phone call.
Ease the Burden of Deductibles
High deductibles can result in large balances for a single patient visit which can make it difficult for a patient to pay their total balance at one time. Automated, customized payment plans can help patients pay down these large balances over time without relying on paper statements, staff follow-up calls and manual payment posting.
As a best practice, these plans should enable providers to automatically collect payments in a secure and compliant way with automated notifications and receipts to the patients.
Importance of Security in Healthcare Payments
Offering multiple ways to pay is a proven strategy to help providers engage patients in the payment process and help improve patient collections. However, if not properly managed, these payment channels can significantly increase the risk for a data breach. Providers at risk of a data breach face serious repercussions that can impact patient trust and ultimately future revenue.
Leveraging industry-proven best practices and secure payment technology, providers can greatly reduce security risks to payment information and ensure sensitive information is protected. It is important to note that trusting vendors’ self-attesting compliance can be dangerous and open up providers to a data breach. Instead, providers must ask to see a vendor’s security credentials, which must be independently validated by reputable security firms or industry organizations.