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Collect patient payment and verify insurance with text messaging


Text messages for patient payments and insurance verification make a difficult task easier. Tweak your technology to get paid on time and reduce the friction in your patient billing process.

If you bill patients, you know that patient communication about payments and insurance are difficult. Text messaging can make it easier.

A report by McKinsey found that “...provider collection rates run at 50 to 70 percent for small-dollar liabilities for insured patients and fall to about 10 percent for self-pay patients.”

The vast majority of patients are frustrated and confused by the billing process, too. Only 7% can define important health insurance terms such as premium, deductible, coinsurance, and out of pocket max.

These problems will get worse for healthcare practices that do not make changes. If you collect anything from patients, you cannot ignore these trends.

But, the same report from McKinsey estimates that if patients “...had access to more convenient payment mechanisms...only 10 percent of their bad debt would remain uncollectable.”

As mentioned in an our previous article in the series, text messaging is the most convenient way for most people to communicate with those they already know.

Text messaging should not replace other processes for patient collections, but it is a fantastic way to improve cash flow and drop bad debt.

Collect patient payment with text messaging

First, you must sign up with a payment processor that offers HIPAA-compliant, online payments. Vendors like PayGround, InstaMed, Stripe, Braintree, and Square can integrate with your website and offer both online and POS patient payments.

Second, optimize your website for patient payments. You will likely want two prominent buttons on your website’s homepage: “Make Appointment” and “Pay Bill”. Reword these buttons depending on your specialty and the call-to-action (e.g., Schedule Examination, Book Massage, Make Payment).

Third, have the payment button redirect traffic to your vendor’s secure payment gateway. Embedding an iFrame on your webpage or using a reputable API is fine.

Avoid the liability of passing patient and cardholder data through your web server. The healthcare and payment industries are highly regulated. Hackers will target you and a single mistake could result in hefty fees.

Fourth, modify your billing processes to include text message balance notifications. Text patients whenever they have an open balance that meets your criteria (e.g. new, 15 days late, over $50). Text them something like:

  • You have a new balance of $[amount] with [ABC Medical Care] that you can pay online at https://example.com/make-payment or via [phone number].
  • [Name], it looks like your balance of $[amount] is past due with [ABC Medical Care]. You can pay at https://example.com/make-payment. Call us if you have any questions at [phone number].
  • Final courtesy notice. Your open balance is over 60 days past due. You can pay [ABC Medical Care] $[amount] at https://example.com/make-payment or [phone number].

Finally, do not text patients an unencrypted receipt after a payment. Receipts can contain protected health information (PHI), depending on your specialty.

Instead, offer the receipt via a secure email or portal. Ideally, text the patient a receipt link that is password-protected and stored on a HIPAA-compliant server.

Verify insurance with text messaging

Insurance verifications and pre-authorizations are time consuming.

If you accept insurance, you know that failing to verify a patient’s eligibility can lead to a claim denial or non-payment. Historically, you would need to call the patient’s insurance provider to verify their insurance. 

Electronic clearinghouses and insurance web portals can make it easier to verify insurance eligibility. They allow your team to quickly determine if a patient has active coverage for the services you will provide. Electronic verification provides a better patient experience, increases time-of-service collections, and mitigates your risk of denial.

You can save your patients and staff time if you verify new patient insurance before the day of their appointment. Text messaging can make this process even faster.

Once again, you should never text protected health information (PHI) via an unencrypted channel. Many unauthorized third parties, including your carrier, have access to these messages.

Instead, schedule simple text message reminders for upcoming new patient appointments. Your messages can contain a link to a secure web form where patients can enter their insurance information.

Here is an example:

Please enter your insurance information for your upcoming appointment on [date] at [time] on our portal at: https://example.com/insurance-verification

Use your patient portal URL for this workflow. It will need to allow a patient or client to update their own insurance information. If the portal does not automatically verify eligibility, your staff can use the entered information to initiate a 270 inquiry.

If your patient portal will not work, you can set up your own web form. Work with a reputable healthcare IT development and marketing partner. You should ensure that all data is encrypted in transmission and at rest to prevent a PHI data breach.

You can set up this web form over TLS using PHP or Node.js to send user inputs to a database that is hosted on a secure server. Or, skip the database and have the form entry sent to a secure, HIPAA compliant email server. 

You can also embed a Google Form on your website. Just ensure that you have a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) on file with Google and whoever is running your website.

Read More from this Series:

About the Author
Jon founded meddkit.com to help private healthcare businesses get more consistent appointments, improve their web presence, and reduce technology stress. Jon is a certified Project Management Professional and has spent a decade helping healthcare providers with technology. Jon lives near Philadelphia, PA and is an avid reader, outdoorsman, and tech enthusiast.
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