The following is a guest article by Bird Blitch, CEO and co-founder at Patientco.
Contactless payments, such as text-to-pay, contactless EMV cards, Apple Pay and more, were on the rise even before COVID-19, but now, health systems should see them as essential. Not only are patient preferences shifting to a more consumer-style experience model, but the health risks associated with shared devices, like EMV terminals are too great. Add the rise of telehealth and the challenges social distancing poses to revenue cycle teams who manage payments, the need for a new model is clear.
As COVID has shown us all, we need to innovate and rethink old ways of doing. To help keep patients, staff, and hospital finances healthy and humming, contactless is the way forward. Why?
It helps consumers feel in control
Healthcare has long struggled to adapt its patient experience to a modern, consumer-friendly model. Interacting and transacting business or personal communications via text, a smartphone app, or a computer is now the norm across industries. Even though today’s consumers are used to accomplishing almost anything via an app on their phone or online, it is common practice for health systems to rely on legacy channels to communicate with patients. Medical bills are sent by mail and prompt patients to pay by mailing a check or calling their provider’s office to make a payment over the phone. The pandemic is now fueling changes that have been needed for years.
Enabling contactless technologies where consumers can view and pay their bills – including email and text options – helps consumers feel in control over their finances and creates a better patient experience, thus supporting your organization’s revenue cycle. Additionally, when patients receive their bills digitally, they are more likely to pay online and payments are received much faster. Our data shows that digital billing communication cuts average days to pay in half because patients don’t have to wait for their bill to arrive in the mail before paying.
Also, when patients pay their bill online, it reduces the burden on your health system’s RCM team and ensures they have the bandwidth to focus on supporting patients with more complex inquiries. When you remove dependency on billing communications and payment options that require a physical workforce, like mail, you gain the opportunity to improve both the patient and your team’s experience. It’s also more efficient for everyone involved.
It eliminates security and health risks to staff and patients
Contactless payment options like email and text-to-pay eliminate some of the issues associated with more traditional payment methods. From a patient perspective, new consumer technologies have led people to expect a certain level of autonomy and efficiency when paying bills, which contactless payment methods support.
For RCM teams and health systems, contactless eliminates both security and contamination risks. Many RCM teams are now working remotely. For these team members to process co-pays and other payments, they have to collect a patient’s credit card information over the phone. This leaves room for human error and creates PCI risk.
Some patients may also question the security of their payment information, and asking patients to share their card information over the phone can feel like a security risk. Meanwhile, for patients that come in for an in-person office visit, they’ll want to avoid touching a credit card terminal and pens that other patients have used.
Not only does this help reduce collection challenges for your team, it also reduces PCI scope and your organization’s reliance on hardware devices. At the same time, it gives your patients peace of mind that their payment information is secure.
It dovetails with another important emerging trend in healthcare: telehealth
More patients are opting to use telehealth for their healthcare needs. This trend will change how patients think about interacting with their health system across each step in their care journey. This includes how they pay for that care.
After interacting with their doctor on a video call, patients will begin to expect other ways to engage digitally. This includes how they receive and respond to billing communication from their health system. For example, why should patients have to wait for their medical bill to arrive via traditional mail? Patients will want to receive any billing communication, whether it’s a price estimate or a medical bill, on the same screen they’d use for their telehealth appointment.
If patients can use their smartphone to interact with their doctor during a telehealth appointment, they’re going to expect payment options that are just as convenient. Patients shouldn’t have to find their checkbook or stamps to mail a check nor call their health system during business hours to pay via phone. Instead, patients want intuitive, online- and mobile-friendly payment options with helpful functionalities, like the ability to review past statements or store payment methods for future use. As patients continue to interact with ever more intuitive technologies from industries like banking, telephone carriers and even the government, the experience gap between healthcare and consumer expectations will only continue to widen.
The digital future has arrived and it’s here to stay
Coronavirus has forced healthcare into a more digital world. Digital, contactless and consumer-friendly solutions have become increasingly important for addressing patients’ clinical questions and general concerns. Similarly, adopting effective, contactless billing and payment options will keep patients safe, engaged and informed while helping your team run a financially strong healthcare organization. As health systems start resuming more elective surgeries and rebuilding trust and relationships with their patient populations, now is the perfect time to build systems better suited for both patients and providers. Contactless payments are a simple fix that pack a big punch for everyone.