Payments: A Matter of Survival for the C-Suite, Part One

Consumer payments are making up a larger portion of hospital and health system revenue. According to Kalorama Foundation, consumer healthcare spending is expected to be $608 Billion by 2019. This is a truth that seems to be acknowledged throughout the industry; however, the key point missing from this conversation is just how much these payments impact your bottom line. 

For better insight into the relationship between consumer payments and your revenue, we can look to two important statistics: 

  • Patient satisfaction ratings fall by an average of more than 30 percent from post-discharge through the billing process. (2015 HCAHPS Survey) 
  • Hospitals with excellent HCAHPS patient ratings between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with low ratings. (Deloitte) 

The data here demonstrates a clear relationship between consumer satisfaction with the payment process and provider revenue. In short, collecting from consumers is no longer a "nice to have" – it is now a matter of survival. 

In this two-part series, I will examine trends and best practices, including examples in other industries, to help you achieve payment assurance for sustainability. First, let's examine how to leverage online payments to connect with patients. This is a crucial payment channel as 81 percent of consumers already opt to pay their household bills online. (LHK Partners Consumer Survey 2016)

The Benchmark for Online Payments
When patients make purchases on Amazon, they are able to view the site from any device with the same functionality across devices. Additionally, they create an account to save demographic information, payment preferences and payment methods, so that they can quickly make a payment without re-entering information each time. A streamlined and paperless payment process like an Amazon purchase has become the benchmark for online payments. 

Survival tip: Offer patients a robust online payment portal that features digital wallet capabilities and mobile-friendly optimization to meet their payment expectations as set by other industries.

Multiple Bills in One Place
Now that we have established the benchmark, let's examine how cellphone companies bill customers to streamline payments. When someone goes to the T-Mobile website, they can make their monthly payment, purchase a new phone or add services to one of their family's lines – all from the same account and often in the same payment transaction. Larger providers can offer that same level of convenience by allowing patients to pay all of the services from the same health system within the same online payment portal. For example, if Stacey breaks her leg, she can pay for the MRI, orthopedic surgeon consult and physical therapy all in one portal instead of having multiple bills from the same hospital for different services. 

Survival tip: Streamline how patients pay all of their different balances with a simple, consolidated statement for services across an entire organization.

Multiple Patients in One Place
There is also the scenario where the head of the household must make a payment to various providers for multiple family members. A parent might have to pay bills to the birthing center for the delivery of their newborn son, one to the asthma specialist for their young daughter's recent visit and another to the primary physician for monitoring their own blood pressure medication. Providers and payers can work together to allow payments for all of these patients through the health plan's member portal for the same seamless payment experience as Stacey's example above. 

Survival tip: Connect to a network that offers electronic payments from all of your patients, regardless of their health plan, to get paid after the claim is adjudicated.

Healthcare Bill as a Household Bill
Finally, there's the young "invincible" who goes to urgent care one-time to treat the flu and doesn't need or want any additional visits. Likely, they will want to pay you how they pay their other household bills, which can be done in their existing bank bill pay portal. Connections with banks allow you to immediately receive that payment with the patient information, instead of receiving that payment as a paper check to be manually entered into your system. This is how many companies, like credit card or mortgage companies, already do business.

Survival tip: Easily expand payment options for all patients by working with a single vendor that has connections to the more than 5,000 bank websites. 

In this article, I have outlined how to take your online payments to the next level in order to better connect with patients to ensure you receive payments. Next time, I will focus on "set it and forget it" options to guarantee payments from patients. 

About the Author: Before founding InstaMed, Chris was an executive in Accenture's Health and Life Sciences practice. Chris has been involved in strategic development efforts regarding government health initiatives, consumer-directed health plans and direct connectivity between providers and payers. Chris is a named inventor of multiple patents and patent applications held by InstaMed.