Healthcare News & Insights

How online payments can improve patient collections

Patients are taking on more financial responsibility for their care — and hospitals will have to change how they collect payments if they want to maintain their bottom line. 

ThinkstockPhotos-483590423The industry continues to shift toward a more patient-centric model of care, meaning hospitals will also have to change how they approach billing for that care, too.

Specifically, hospitals will have to find ways to meet patient demand for convenient, transparent and reliable payment methods.

Patients need simple, digital options

That’s one of the main takeaways from a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute (HRI).

The report surveyed 1,000 patients and reviewed more than 34 million claims data from the Truven Health MarketScan’s 2012 commercial claims database.

Researchers found:

  • about 30% of respondents were dissatisfied with their hospitals’ convenience, reliability and affordability
  • more than 31% said they were unhappy with their hospital’s transparency
  • Millennials (those born in the late 80s, early 90s) put much more emphasis on billing practices than older patients, and
  • Millennials were also more likely to shop around, switch providers based on the value of the care and challenge their medical bills.

To help providers create more patient-centric payment systems, the report makes two recommendations:

  • Focus on simplicity. Many patients are confused about the financial obligations for care. However, the report notes providers can help address this by adopting mobile apps, online payment methods and aggregated billing.
  • Offer more payment options. Giving patients online payment options is an important part of meeting their expectations for convenience.

Giving online pay options

A real-life example of how hospitals can create more patient-centric payment systems comes from Houston-based Memorial Hermann, FierceHealthFinance reports.

Memorial Hermann, a nonprofit health system, created an “Amazon-like” digital payment system to simplify how patients pay their bills.

The system is integrated with the digital platform used to let patients schedule appointments, and provides a simplified, interactive version of the patient’s bill. The system breaks down bills by what services were provided, what the patient’s insurance covers and how much of the cost will come out of pocket.

Additionally, the system gives the option to pay what they owe from mobile devices, tablets and laptops all at once or through flexible payment plan options. The customizable payment plan options have also gone a long way in improving patient collections and satisfaction.

Since its launch, the system has improved self-service payments by over 50%, reduced collections costs by 23%, raised patient satisfaction scores, reduced vendor costs and relieved administrative burdens of billing and revenue cycle staff.

As patients continue to shoulder more care costs, hospitals will have to take steps like Memorial Hermann or as the HRI report recommends to improve patient collections and meet their expectations for convenience.

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