Guest post by Jeff Fountaine, director of healthcare, Ingenico Group.
In 2017, the healthcare industry is continuing to discuss the major shifts that are taking place around a patient’s financial responsibility. While it’s important to acknowledge that these discussions have been largely driven by significant changes to reimbursement models, it’s imperative that we look beyond this single causation. Financial responsibility involves more than simply making and collecting payments.
Consider these figures:
- Consumer payments to healthcare providers nearly doubled from 2012 to 2015
- Insurance deductibles have increased a startling 255 percent since 2006
- 84 percent of employers have increased or say they plan to increase insurance deductibles and/or co-pays for their plan participants
As a result, healthcare providers are managing much higher transaction volumes from patients, which is causing them to rethink their approach to collecting payments. A new approach requires a deep dive into payment security, PCI scope, EMV and workflow changes – a challenging proposition to say the least.
To understand these challenges and how healthcare providers are responding, let’s take a look at some of the top revenue cycle trends in the industry.
Key Revenue Cycle Trends
Bloomberg recently reported that the second-biggest for profit U.S. hospital chain revised its Q4 2015 provisions for bad debt up by $169 million. Forty percent, or $68 million, was from patients that were unable to pay deductibles and co-payments.
In a similar fashion, J.P. Morgan’s Key Trends in Healthcare Patient Payments report pointed out that the rate of bad debt for insured patients is increasing by over 30 percent per year at some hospitals.
Not surprisingly, these and other challenges stemming from increased patient responsibility are dominating the 2017 revenue cycle management agenda for senior finance executives in healthcare. Among the top revenue cycle initiatives for 2017 are several related to payments:
- Preventing or resolving underpayments
- Lowering the cost to collect patient payments
- Increasing collection rates among insured patients
- Collecting more balances at the point of service
Understanding the role of payment technologies
At its highest level, payment technology plays an important role in advancing revenue cycle initiatives and addressing increases in patient responsibility. Most importantly, the technologies offer patients easy and secure payment options at multiple touchpoints within the continuum of care.
Below are a few of the ways payment technologies help healthcare institutions achieve their revenue cycle objectives while improving the patient experience:
Increase transaction speed and convenience for providers and patients
As has been the case in the retail and commerce industries, payment technologies can offer fast, efficient, and secure payment processing to speed up healthcare transactions and improve convenience for providers and patients. Whether processing payment at check-in, the point of care or the pharmacy, it’s important to offer fast, secure and flexible options that adequately meet the preferences of the patient. This can be done by accepting payment via EMV chip card, magstripe card, or NFC/contactless options such as Apple Pay and Android Pay.
Furthermore, innovations such as touch screen terminals can reduce the levels of administrative paperwork. Not only are these screens interactive, they offer a way to capture signatures for consent, verify demographics, sign up for loyalty programs, and more.
Speed up the revenue cycle and reduce bad debt
Being able to offer payment acceptance at all points in the revenue cycle process and throughout the continuum of care is a key component to encouraging and enabling patients to improve financial responsibility. Touchpoints can include locations such as inpatient and outpatient settings, triage or emergency rooms, physician practices, home healthcare and pharmacies.
On one hand, the industry needs to be understanding of the sensitivities around patient payments during times of care. However, it also has to keep in mind that technologies such as wireless solutions or mobile point of sale (POS) devices allow providers to immediately collect required balances at the point of service. From both a patient and provider perspective, this can be a crucial step in avoiding payment delays, underpayments and partial payments that lead to bad debt.
Improve (and educate) on the patient experience
Today’s patient has the right to know how much they will owe, understand their payment options, and garner more clarity and transparency in their healthcare billing. The good news is that according to Navicure, about 75 percent of healthcare organizations claim to be able to provide a cost estimate upon request; however, only 25 percent of patients requested one. This shows that a large number of patients are not aware that they can get an estimate before or at the time of service – which, if provided in a timely manner, can help improve a patient’s experience but also assist the healthcare organization in collecting payments.
The same research points out that among payment methods, the majority of patients preferred to utilize the credit card-on-file (CCOF) method for charges less than $200, highlighting that payment technology is an important part of the patient experience. Such solutions offer an ideal way to address trends in patient preferences, providing patients with a clear summary of their payment responsibility by allowing them to interact with a smart terminal to review billing details.
Looking ahead – where do we go from here?
Understanding patient and payer expectations, and improving the patient payment experience, remains an important proposition for the healthcare industry. It’s clear that education will play a key role as new payment technology becomes a bigger part of the patient experience pie – and a more common sight at all various touchpoints within the continuum of care.
Healthcare providers will need to look long and hard at the integration of payment technologies as a fundamental part of their revenue cycle and patient care strategies, determining that the right strategy and the right payment solutions will help them accomplish their revenue cycle objectives while also improving patient satisfaction.