More flexibility, transparency, and convenience are on the horizon.
Influenced by decades-high levels of inflation, as well as the selection and personalization they’ve come to anticipate as consumers, patients today expect flexible, convenient payment options from their healthcare providers.
As a result, the healthcare payments space has recently seen an explosion of innovation in terms of new payment options, such as specialized lines of credit and buy-now, pay-later options, that may lead to better health – financially and physically – for patients, according a recent report from PYMTS.com.
The good news is that many providers have already recognized the importance of payment flexibility. The survey found that, when considering the improvements they would like to see for their patient payment platforms and solutions, providers’ top four priorities were: greater ease-of-use for patients, better integration with software and patient collections workflow, the addition of Apple Pay, and better payment terminal functionality.
In that spirit of looking ahead, we offer four predictions for the defining healthcare payment trends of 2023.
Flexible payment alternatives: Consumers have an ever-increasing number of options at their fingertips to pay bills, from pay-by-text to digital wallets to card-on-file to auto-debit. Well-known examples of digital wallets include Apple Pay and Google Pay. Consumers have embraced digital wallets primarily because they are so convenient, replacing cash and credits cards with a fast, easy, and secure payment option.
Separately, providers should consider offering flexible payment plans, which enable patients to better manage the large expenses often associated with medical bills. Additionally, flexible post-visit payment plans can help providers improve collections and reduce the amount of bad debt sent to collections agencies by delivering more transparency to patients, something patients are eager to see.
For example, one survey of 1,300 consumers found that 66% said they believe price transparency will improve the healthcare, experience while 91% said they believe hospitals and healthcare facilities should be required to publicly disclose the costs of their services.
Similarly, an earlier survey revealed that 62% of patients said that knowing their estimated out-of-pocket costs can influence whether or not they will access healthcare, and 49% said having a clear estimate of financial responsibility will impact whether they visit a certain provider.
Greater financial transparency: Online pre-service check-ins enable patients to confirm important data – such as demographic information, insurance and benefits coverage, copay, and service amount estimate based on visit type – prior to a telehealth or in-person visit. With pre-service cost estimates, providers can collect co-pay and out-of-pocket costs at check-in, while at the same time storing the patient’s credit card information to automatically bill for any balance due.
Increasing consumerization: Driven in part by greater comfort acquired during the pandemic, modern consumers often expect the option to self-schedule events on their mobile devices, whether dinner reservations, oil changes, or hairstyling appointments. By offering patients the option to self-schedule medical appointments online, as opposed to requiring them to call in during office hours, providers reduce barriers to care and improve patient satisfaction.
Additionally, to boost convenience for families who visit the same provider group, providers may consider adding the option of consolidating multiple family financial statements into one bill, enabling greater ease of payment.
Reporting and reconciliation: While increasing consumer choice enables patients to pay in a way that best suits them, it also makes it more complex for healthcare providers to manage their own financial wellbeing. With a one-stop-shop for financial management, providers will benefit from a single location to manage their finances holistically, enabling them to quickly and easily reconcile on funds received, owed, and generate comprehensive reports for up-to-the-moment visibility of their financial status.
As healthcare grows to mirror other industries in terms of consumer convenience, the way forward for providers is clear: To maintain competitiveness, they must deliver flexible, convenient payment options that cater to patient preferences, while simplifying the management of their businesses financial operations.
Johnathan Welch is Senior Vice President of Product at Sphere.