California Hospitals Expand Program Streamlining Billing and Payment Processes

A group of California hospitals has had such success with the initial run of its medical billing improvement process that it has expanded far more quickly than it had originally intended.

The Member Payments program brings together members of the Dignity Health hospital system with Blue Shield of California and tech startup OODA Health to make healthcare billing easier for patients to understand and their balances simpler to pay. The program began in October 2019 at two Dignity Health hospitals and expanded to a total of six participating facilities within the first year.

Under the terms of the program, Blue Shield of California get a consolidated monthly medical bill designed to offer a transparent retail-like experience. The process is set up to make it easy for patients to make payments, either in full or in interest-free installments drawing on their FSA card, credit card, check or ACH direct deposit connection. Blue Shield of California is also putting new technologies in hospitals to streamline manual RCM processes.

If the vendor’s OODAPay technology performs as in the past, the Dignity hospitals could increase collections by up to 30%. Meanwhile, the program has already been a hit with patients.  During this initial testing period, 92% of patients were satisfied with the newly redesigned bills, a major departure from the poorly-designed, complicated and sometimes indecipherable statements patients often receive.

Clearly, the health system is happy with the initiative’s progress. This month, Dignity Health announced that it is expanding the program to 20 more of its hospitals.

The billing redesign programs come as part of a broader initiative by the health plan, called Health Reimagined, aimed at no less a goal than transforming the healthcare system using new technologies and ideas. The 20 pilot programs underway include the deployment of a customized virtual-care system letting patients participate in video visits via computer, smartphone or tablet and an Apple Watch-enabled virtual assistant that helps physicians create an electronic medical record with their voice.  Blue Shield is also testing technology that can settle all claims in real-time before patients leave the hospital or physician’s office.

Given its scale, it seems likely that this Member Payments program will continue to get attention and will offer useful context on how to improve the patient side of RCM.

If nothing else, it stands as a reminder that providers need to offer a slicker, friendlier billing product if they want to improve collections. Whether they introduce retail payment options like text-to-pay and mobile wallets or just organize data more clearly, they need to keep their eye on this issue.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

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