Trends in Healthcare Payments: What Patients Want
Medical practices are struggling to collect a larger portion of medical bills directly from patients, with 67% reporting their number one concern is patient receivables. High-deductible insurance plans are becoming the norm, and the average deductible amount increased from $735 in 2008 to $1,573 in 2018.
Many practices still rely on paper statements to communicate and collect on patient balances. However, in a time when digital technology in healthcare is evolving rapidly, this process is proving less and less effective. Understanding patient expectations and evolving trends in healthcare payment solutions will help practices speed up revenue cycles and keep their patients happy, but it starts with understanding and determining which technologies are worth adopting.
Tapping into patient expectations
The number of bills that patients receive in the mail are dwindling as they acquire more electronic bills to pay online. People in general are mailing fewer and fewer checks and in most cases prefer to make online payments. Consider the following:
- There were 14.2 billion “connected things” during 2019, and this number is expected to jump to 25 billion by 2021.
- Most patients (81%) own a smartphone.
- People look at their phones an average of 52 times a day.
The longer a practice waits to receive payment, the more likely those unpaid balances will cause problems for their business. This is increasingly true with large patient balances, which can take longer to collect. Research shows that 81% of medical practices can’t collect bills of $1,000 or more within 30 days. Digital payment options comprise a powerful tool that allows your practice to speed up cash flow and better connect with patients.
Understanding patient demands and trends
Collecting on overdue payments can be a frustrating challenge for practices, but research finds that the reason many of these bills go unpaid is that the balance is a surprise. Patients are adjusting to managing the cost associated with high-deductible insurance plans, and in many cases, paying medical bills isn’t in their budgets.
- Most patients (93%) felt surprised when receiving a medical bill.
- Over half of patients (61%) felt the bill was larger than it should be.
- About half of patients weren’t expecting to receive a bill at all and were astonished that they owed a balance.
- About one-quarter (24%) of patients had their accounts sent to collections.
The first step in collecting more on receivables is adoption of a transparent process in which the patient receives an accurate, up-front estimate outlining their financial responsibility, which empowers them to figure out the best way to pay. Additionally, it’s important to give people the tools they require to make payments easily, such as digital payments and payment plans.
Delivering flexible payment solutions
Offering digital payment options allow you to collect more receivables at the point of care. Those who can’t pay the full balance can set up a payment plan and receive automatic payments scheduled, significantly increasing your receivables. Here are a few solutions to consider adopting.
Offer mobile payment options. The prevalence of mobile payments has risen to 29%, which is up 65% since 2015. Send patients a text message or email, and allow them to pay on the go from their smartphone or mobile device.
Deliver personalized payment plans. In a time in which “on demand” services and personalization are the norm rather than the exception, patients expect more from their medical practices. Consider offering personalized payment plans, which are 100% inclusive – available to all patients regardless of their credit situation.
Give the option of “card on file” technology. People like card-on-file technology because it streamlines the payment process and makes paying for services easier. Medical practices can use this technology by having an agreement on file with patients and charging the appropriate card after any insurance payments are received. This greatly speeds up the payment cycle.
Online branded portal. Patients expect to be able to view statements, pay bills and set up payment plans online. Give patients this experience with an online branded portal, which makes it easier and faster to pay on balances owed.
Moving forward with greater cash flow
In every corner of business, people receive faster and more personalized transactions, and patients expect those same experiences from their medical practice.
When you deliver on these trends and expectations, people feel a more meaningful and lasting connection with your practice and continue returning for additional services. In addition to improving the patient experience, adopting digital payments allows your practice to improve cash flow and create greater financial health in your business.