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Empowering patients with better mobile payments experiences


We know patients are the new payers. Here are 3 ways a physician practice can adjust to that with a patient-centric, mobile-powered payment experience.

mobile phone | © Maria Savenko - stock.adobe.com

© Maria Savenko - stock.adobe.com

The volume of unpaid medical bills has risen exponentially – and today, an estimated 23 million people, or nearly 1 in 10 adults, owe more than $1,000 in medical bills.

There are multiple factors driving this trend. Seventy-one percent of consumers say inflation has affected healthcare purchasing decisions or their ability to pay their medical bills, according to a recent survey. Meanwhile the average premium for employer-sponsored family coverage increased 43% over the last ten years, and the average deductible for single coverage increased 61%.

The consequences, as physicians know, are dire: According to a Gallup poll published in January, 38% of Americans put off medical treatment in 2022, representing a 12 percentage point increase from those who said the same a year earlier.

But while we can’t necessarily change macroeconomic factors influencing healthcare costs, there is one thing we can change that will have a positive impact: the patient financial experience.

Physician practices need to do more to empathize with patients when it comes to covering the cost of their care. They need to meet them at their level — essentially, by considering their preferences — instead of attempting to collect payments in a way that feels archaic and impersonal.

The shifting payments landscape and patient preferences

Most healthcare organizations are well-intentioned in their desire to recoup cash — and are surprised when metrics such as days in accounts receivable (A/R) lag behind benchmark averages. But when they look closely at how they’re trying to engage with patients, it becomes clear why certain metrics aren’t improving.

According to the consumer survey, 29% of patients say providers make it difficult to pay medical bills.

How are they making it difficult? In a word, paper. Many healthcare organizations are still mailing out paper statements like it’s the 1990s. This is out of touch with the times, as most of us pay for a growing portion of goods and services — groceries, rideshare services like Uber, and telehealth — with our digital devices. The iPhone is, after all, a mature teenager turning 16 years old this year.

The younger patients are, the more likely they are looking for paper-free options for payment. These consumers desire engaging, one-touch solutions for healthcare payment that are as accessible and intuitive as Venmo transactions.

Modernizing communications and patient engagement

To modernize patient financial communications, it’s important to understand that no two approaches to billing and collections is alike. Still, as a practice transitions to a digital or mobile payment strategy, here are three golden rules to keep in mind:

  1. Price transparency is king. Patients don’t want sticker shock weeks after a procedure. Before dispatching a text notification with a patient’s post-operation tab, consider dispatching an estimate ahead of time. Organizations can also offer flexible repayment options in advance to cover any balance that remains after insurance and charity discounts are applied. When patients can wrap their minds around the cost of a healthcare service, they feel more empowered to make big healthcare decisions.
  2. Digital outreach is now preferred by most. Ninety-six percent of U.S. adults ages 18 to 29 own a smartphone, as well as 61% of those 65 and older, according to a 2022 Pew Research study. The next generation of patients coming of age have never known a world without smartphones. Perhaps that’s why, unsurprisingly, 31% of consumers would pay medical bills faster when notified by text or email, a recent U.S. Bank survey noted. According to the consumer survey, text ranks higher among younger generations as a preferred means for paying for care: 48% of Gen Zers and 49% of millennials surveyed said it was their favorite way of paying medical bills.
  3. Text-to-pay should feel seamless. Too often we hear about mobile ‘text to pay’ solutions that are just campaigns woo patients onto a secure, difficult-to-navigate patient portal. True mobile pay isn’t sending patients an SMS with a URL that redirects them to a gated intranet where they must recall their login credentials to pay a bill. It should be much simpler than that, with texts that connect to prompts where patients can input their PayPal or debit card information while standing, casually, on the sidelines of a football game.

Looking ahead

When practices are empathetic and transparent about the cost of care, and can accommodate patient preferences for convenience and accessibility, patients are more likely to pay on time.

We’ve seen several examples of this. Most recently, MainStreet Family Care, a physician practice with multiple locations across Alabama and Georgia, saw dramatic improvements in its revenue cycle and an 11% decrease in the volume of paper statements after it switched to digital payment methods, The revenue cycle team also saves an estimated five hours in manual work per week, or 260 hours a year.

By putting patient experience first, other physician practices could see similar gains over the next few years. They’ll also see more satisfied patients who are ready and willing to meet their financial commitments for care, on their own terms.

Mark Spinner is the CEO of AccessOne.

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