HIMSS News

Online Payments: Benefits of Embracing Multiple Models

John TalagaPatrick MaurerRevenue cycle managers have plenty to worry about, from ICD-10 to rising numbers of self-pay patients. Probably the biggest challenge is the most fundamental: how to improve collections. Two industry experts share their thoughts on how to collect more, collect faster, and collect more easily. Patrick Maurer is President of Apex Information Technologies, a statement presentment and online bill-pay partner to many health systems. John Talaga is head of healthcare for doxo, an all-in-one digital file cabinet that connects patients, providers and payers to improve payments and interactions.

Q. How can providers achieve higher percentages of patients paying online? 
Pat Maurer: First, consistent, clear messaging that directs patients online. Second, offering a variety of ways to pay online. Encouraging “e-adoption” by patients is one of the best ways to shorten the revenue cycle. We’ve conducted a study that showed that 26% of patients who receive their bills online and pay online make payment within five days—a near impossibility with traditional payments.

John Talaga: Convenience is king.  The focus really needs to be on how we are helping patients navigate through the complexity between insurance benefits and patient payment responsibility.  Patients are tasked with reconciling bills and EOBs from multiple providers and their health plan, and this can’t be solved unilaterally between a single provider and a patient.  Leveraging web tools and apps that bring it all together will simplify the process and result in much higher patient online adoption and payments.

Q. What makes some payment portals more successful than others?
Pat Maurer: Portals should make users feel comfortable, as one aspect of “after care” patient services. Portals are only valuable to the extent they are used, so offer patients multiple ways to engage with the portal. If the only way to use the portal is with a login and password, then you may actually restrict online payment adoption. Therefore, it’s a good idea to also provide a “no-login” option, in which a unique ID code on the statement lets patients go directly to the portal to make a quick payment. In both cases, the portal should be custom branded and pre-populated with patient data. Also, patients appreciate the option to make line-item payments and pay using any major credit card or ACH.

John Talaga: By and large, every patient has to deal with a bill.  Providers that are accessible through multiple payment channels can drive more users to their patient portal for managing their care experience.  Having the ability to pay their bill from the portal is one of those payment channels.  It’s about options and allowing the patient to pay anywhere, anytime, any place.

Q. How have online patient payments evolved over the past few years and where do you see it going?
Pat Maurer: Online patient payments are evolving alongside other electronic healthcare systems, such as electronic health record (EHR) portals. Recently, providers have started recognizing that integrating their payment portals and EHRs—especially with Single Sign-On (SSO) technology—can help drive traffic to EHRs. That broadens the strategic importance of online payments even more.

John Talaga: Consumer online behavior has made a radical shift in the past decade.  Instead of people visiting lots of different sites, they create their own online accounts which others use to connect with them.  Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others have helped catalyze this change.  It’s no longer about offering one place to pay.  Providers are starting to embrace alternative payment sources from preferred patient web tools.  Expect that trend to accelerate, along with the continued growth in mobile payments.

Q. Why should companies that appear to be in the same payments space work together?
Pat Maurer: The urgent need is for electronic payment options to appeal to as many patients as possible. Providers need to embrace more than one model to be successful. We believe the provider centric/branded model should absolutely be supplemented by a patient-centric model.

John Talaga: It’s all about the customer.  Most providers already have a partner that is processing their statements and managing their direct online patient payments.  It makes good business sense for them to facilitate other options for the provider, centralize reporting and posting and grow adoption in the aggregate. 

Patrick Maurer, President of Apex Information Technologies, has been pivotal in architecting and implementing several of Apex’s award-winning software offerings. He has also overseen the implementation of automated processes in Apex’s production environment.

John Talaga, doxo, launched and leads the healthcare business at doxo, which enables providers and payers to connect and interact with patients.  Prior to doxo, John co-founded HealthCom and launched PatientCompass, a leading online billing and payment service serving over 750 hospitals and health systems.  HealthCom sold to McKesson in 2006, where John led RelayHealth’s patient solutions business for four years