InstaMed Blog

As students and parents get ready for a new school year, it’s a good time to regroup and set up new goals for the upcoming fall and winter months. While students go back to school shopping, healthcare should consider picking up some new tools and best practices for healthcare payments.

Here are five “back-to-school” lessons healthcare organizations can learn before taking on the new year ahead:

  1. Utilize Omnichannel Payment Options
    Crayons, markers or colored pencils… Which is your preference for coloring? Students all have different coloring options when it comes to creating a masterpiece in art class or drawing a map for geography class. Healthcare patients and guarantors can have options to make payments, too. There is no “one-size-fits-all” payment channel that meets the needs of every person, therefore utilizing omnichannel payment methods at your organization is necessary to create a positive payment experience for all. We know that the popularity of online and mobile payment channels is growing and that 58 percent of consumers prefer to pay their medical bills through an online payment channel. However, not everyone will prefer to pay this way. In fact, 16 percent of consumers prefer to pay their medical bills at the provider’s office, and 5 percent prefer to pay over the phone.

    The key is to offer patients multiple payment options so that all of your patients have the ability to pay their healthcare bills however they want. Not only do omnichannel payment methods increase the likelihood that patients will pay, but they also can positively impact a healthcare organization’s revenue, brand awareness and patient satisfaction scores. Students do not have to choose between coloring with markers or colored pencils so why should healthcare patients have to choose between paying online or over the phone? Give consumers the options they want and let them decide how they want to pay.

  2. Take Advantage of Digital Wallets
    Just as students are able to save their progress on term papers or school projects, patients should be able to save their payment information on file for future use. This is where digital wallets come in. Instead of digging out a credit card and entering the lengthy account number and billing address every time a consumer wants to make a payment online, a digital wallet automatically populates the payment information at check-out, making the payment process faster and simpler. Patients are able to manage their payment preferences by storing multiple payment methods on file (credit card, HSA, bank account, etc.) and set up payment plans and automatic payments.

    Since payment information is saved, it’s much easier to make future payments. Think about re-purchasing school supplies when all those glue sticks and highlighters start to run out in February; all parents have to do is go to Amazon.com, find the supplies their kids need and repurchase with one click. Healthcare payments can be that simple, too.

  3. Cut the Costs of Paper — Go Paperless!
    Schools are embracing the transition from paper to paperless and are taking advantage of online and mobile communication methods. Students and parents are prompted to go online to a school’s website or portal to view grades, the weekly lunch menu and field trip and activity forms. Parents are also now given the option to receive text message alerts, emails or use a phone hotline to communicate with teachers and staff about topics like early dismissals and sick-day absences. The days of homework handouts, mailed report cards, absence notes and take-home flyers are ending. But, there’s still too much paper in healthcare.

    Consider that 86 percent of consumers primarily receive a paper medical bill from their providers, but only 21 percent of consumers actually want to use checks to make healthcare payments. It’s time to cut the expensive costs and burdens of using paper in the healthcare payments process. Utilizing eStatements, online patient portals and automatic payments are all simple paperless ways to improve efficiency for your staff and deliver a convenient consumer-friendly experience to your patients. If your office enables online payments, maximize your online payment potential! The estimated industry annual savings of switching to electronic transactions is $9.4 billion in overall administrative costs. Need help getting started? Here are five simple steps your organization can take to go paperless.

  4. Schedule Automatic Payments
    Where would students be without their agenda books? They allow students to manage their workload, outline due dates and stay on top of all upcoming assignments. Patients like to manage and stay on top of their healthcare payments, too. Payment plans and automatic payments are a great way for patients and staff to be able to keep track of recurring healthcare payments. Automatic payments enable your staff to automate the collection process once a balance is identified in your system.

    Setting up automatic payments will cut costs for your organization by reducing print and mail costs and improve efficiency by eliminating the need for staff follow-ups on outstanding balances. Patients don’t want to be late on payments, just as students don’t want to be late on assignments. Allow patients to stay on top of their payments and automate the process for a simpler, more convenient payment experience.

  5. Be Prepared – Estimate Responsibility Beforehand
    Back to school shopping lists are a parent’s best friend. They lay out everything you will need to buy before you even get to the store. Students and parents can determine where they need to go and can estimate approximately what they will be spending in order to get all the supplies needed for the school year. No one likes surprises, especially when it comes to a bill. The same applies to healthcare, as 91% of consumers want to know their payment responsibility prior to a visit.

    Providers need to be more transparent when it comes to patient payment responsibility. Discussing payment options beforehand helps patients understand what their payment responsibility is going to be without any surprises or confusion. Anything you can do to set payment expectations, establish the validity of your estimates and build trust with your patients will help facilitate payment conversations, improve the consumer experience and help you get paid. Plus, when you discuss payment responsibility early on, you have the ability to offer automated payment options that can increase collection processes and reduce the time it takes to get paid. That’s a win-win situation for everyone!

Extra Credit!

Healthcare data is at risk now more than ever and 2016 saw more healthcare data breaches than any other year on record. But first, let’s put your knowledge to the test…

On average, how much does a data breach cost a healthcare organization?

A. $589 thousand

B. $2.4 million

C. $3.62 million

D. $275 thousand

If you answered C, you’re correct. The healthcare payments market handles a massive amount of information that includes highly sensitive items such as social security numbers and credit card numbers. If you aren’t prioritizing security at your organization, you are putting yourself at risk. Just as students have number combination locks for their school or gym lockers, healthcare must lock down its data to ensure patient information is protected.

With the school year quickly approaching, healthcare can learn from some of the best “back to school” practices students use to prepare for the upcoming September month. Get a head start on the year ahead and simplify the healthcare payments process at your organization.

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