The Rise of Contactless Checkout in Healthcare
The expectations of patients are rapidly changing. In the past, a patient may have received a paper statement and the option of paying by phone or mailing in a check, but this type of customer experience feels outdated to today’s tech-savvy patients.
A few of the biggest challenges for practices are slow receivables and bad debts. Sending out paper statements and waiting for patients to pay bills can create a serious lag in receivables and create cash flow issues for a practice. So, what is the right solution moving forward?
Contactless payments enable practices to get paid at the time of service and greatly increase cash flow. Worldwide, contactless transactions grew twice as fast as non-contactless transactions during February and March of this year, likely due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Further, these trends in healthcare payments aren’t reserved for grocery stores and consumer-based transactions — they are rapidly being adopted by medical practices. But what is contactless check out, and how does it work in healthcare? Finding the answers can help you stand out and thrive in a fast-changing business environment.
Contactless payments: Understanding the basics
A recent study that polled 17,000 consumers across 19 countries found that people perceive contactless payments as a “cleaner way to pay.” The United States has been slow compared to other parts of the world to adopt contactless payments, but that adoption rate has increased in recent months.
Cash has lost its footing as the most frequently used payment type. In fact, 64% of consumers plan to use a mobile wallet in 2020, which is up from 46% in 2019. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, contactless payments in the United States have risen by 150%. But what are contactless payments?
Contactless card payments are a way to pay for goods and services that do not require a person to physically hand over their credit card or swipe it through a machine. For example, a practice could send a patient an email or text message to a customer’s mobile device that allows them to click on a link to pay for services or enroll in an approved payment plan. This type of solution allows you to get paid faster by providing streamlined payments and flexible mobile payment options.
Why contactless payments are the future of healthcare
Practices have worked hard to improve patient interactions and give patients the tools they need for a smoother experience, but today’s patients are used to completing much of their business using mobile devices. Paying bills, ordering groceries, and shopping are all conducted with a few easy clicks online. What’s more, people expect this same level of ease when interacting with a healthcare provider. When considering, what qualities does a good healthcare provider possess, one of the answers should include contactless payments. The challenge is that many healthcare practices have been slow to adopt contactless technology.
Contactless payments are the future of healthcare for these reasons, among others:
- Patients want to have more control of their healthcare experience. A surprising number of practices, however, still send paper statements and wait weeks, if not months, to receive payments. But this isn’t the customer experience that people want, and transforming to a mobile payment experience can speed up cash flow and give patients what they expect from service providers.
- Reduces contact and streamlines transactions. The era of COVID-19 has brought unique expectations to medical practices. People want “touchless transactions” to help protect their health. A contactless transaction allows patients to avoid touching credit card terminals or pens used by other patients and creates a more seamless transaction experience.
- Telehealth experiences are on the rise. Practices with no plans to offer telehealth services had to get up and running fast when the pandemic hit. Many patients discovered they enjoy the convenience of telehealth, and the demand for this delivery method may continue in the future. Healthcare IT News recently reported that telehealth is expected to experience a “tsunami of growth,” with estimates at 64% growth over the course of the COVID-19 crisis. Furthermore, a report by Frost & Sullivan forecasts a sevenfold growth of telehealth by 2025. Contactless payments are a tool that works well with telehealth and creates a more seamless and frictionless experience for the patient.
The benefits of contactless payments in healthcare
The benefits of technology in healthcare, such as contactless checkout, extends far beyond collecting payments faster and speeding up cash flow. Giving patients these options improves their experience and will help grow your practice. For example, working with a service provider like ClearGage, enables practices to offer flexible payment options that can help patients afford the cost of care by spreading that expense out over time.
A patient may receive a text to pay or email message with the total amount due. When the patient goes to pay the amount, they have the option of setting up a customized payment plan that fits their budget. As a result, you can reduce their stress around medical care affordability.
This is increasingly important in the era of high-deductible insurance plans. Many people now have this type of insurance plan, and collecting from patients is quite different from collecting from insurance companies. And since more of your revenue is coming directly from patients, now is the right time to rethink payments. A cashless checkout coupled with affordable payment plans can help you manage expenses and create experiences that encourage positive word of mouth and repeat visits in the future.
What to look for in a solution
Providing patients with a contactless payment option is a good way to position yourself for a stronger future, but what should you look for in a solution? Not all solutions are created equal, or with the healthcare industry in mind. Start planning strategies to figure out which solution is best suited for your practice. Consider the following when evaluating which solution to choose.
Compatible with existing technology. Patients want to use their smartphones to pay for services. Select a solution that allows you to send a text message or email directly to the patient’s mobile device and enables them to easily pay their bill.
Provides auto payment options. People are already using auto payments to handle a variety of services, everything from online shopping to Netflix and a variety of other subscription services. Giving people the option to set up autopay allows them to pay for medical bills in the same manner. ClearGage offers AutoPay, which allows you to securely store payment information and, with the patient’s consent, use it to automate and collect on future balances.
Provides accurate, upfront payment estimates. One of the primary reasons that people don’t pay their medical bills is confusion about the amount due. If people think the amount is wrong, or that the insurance company should have paid more, they won’t pay it right away – instead, they’ll go searching for answers. You can eliminate this problem by using an accurate estimation tool that provides details about costs prior to the service being rendered. For example, ClearGage patient estimate tools calculate out-of-pocket costs using data from patients’ benefit plans, increasing payments being received at the time of service.
Offers patient financing options. The cost of healthcare has steadily risen in recent years, and this is leaving many people struggling to pay medical bills. Consider offering patients flexible and personalized financing options to help them afford care. ClearGage allows patients to set up payment plans when they receive the text or email message with the amount due. Some providers allow you the option of getting paid up front on receivables. ClearFund™ allows you to get paid up front or collect over time, which helps speed up accounts receivables and reduces the risk of bad debt.
Consider a patient engagement platform. A contactless transaction is about more than getting your invoices paid; it’s also about creating deeper and more meaningful relationships with your patients. A valuable tool to accomplish this goal is a patient engagement platform. This type of platform allows you to nurture relationships at critical touchpoints along the patient journey.
Let’s say you gave the patient an accurate estimate of their costs, but that patient hasn’t paid their bill. Once the bill is overdue, you can send a friendly reminder offering flexible and personalized payment plans.
Moving into the future with greater success
In the future, we may see fewer cash payments as we move to a cashless society. In fact, Accenture listed “a strong push to a cashless society” as the number one impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medical practices have already experienced a preview of the future with the rise of telemedicine, and they’re working to figure out ways to accept payments more efficiently in those environments. Fortunately, there are helpful tools that allow you to create a contactless payment experience and meet patients’ needs, such as faster payments and patient financing. Practices that adopt these technologies have the ability to stand out, encouraging positive word-of-mouth advertising, repeat business, and success in the future.