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Trends show that consumers want convenient payment experiences similar to retail, restaurant and other industries. Healthcare organizations that deliver on consumer demands stand to benefit financially.

The days of paper bills and checks in healthcare are gone. The idea of what makes a great patient financial experience has changed. 85% of consumers surveyed in the Trends in Healthcare Payments Report say they prefer an electronic payment method for medical bills. Consumers feel that technology makes life easier. This trend is even more popular since the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdowns and restrictions that state and local governments put in place in response to the pandemic created a surge in digital adoption.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Digital Adoption in Healthcare

In healthcare, this was best represented by the increase in telehealth. Analysis from McKinsey shows that telehealth use has stabilized at levels 38x higher than before the pandemic. It’s not just younger, digital-native consumers adopting technology in healthcare, either. A study found that older generations were more likely to use some telehealth programs than Millennials and Gen Z.

It is unlikely that the demand for digital experiences in healthcare will go away. According to the Trends Report, 78% of consumers want contactless experiences made popular during the pandemic to remain in the future.

Looking Ahead: The Patient Financial Experience

Many healthcare organizations responded quickly to COVID-19 lockdowns with digital ways to connect with patients. Looking ahead, organizations that prioritize and scale the digital patient experience will benefit from higher patient engagement and retention rates. Here are five ways healthcare organizations can improve the patient financial experience.

1. Create Early Opportunities for Digital Engagement

The earlier a provider can connect with their patients digitally, the more likely they will get that patient to adopt self-service tools and improve the patient financial experience. Early engagement allows providers to set expectations at the first step of the patient’s journey. It should be easy for patients to select preferences like paperless billing or automatic payments before their visit.

A patient waiting room should feel clean and inviting. Likewise, a “digital front door” should create a positive first impression for your patients. Remove any obstacles or friction for the patient by connecting with them where they are already engaged. Invite patients to interact with you through their mobile devices with QR codes, Bluetooth, or simply sending a link via email or text.

2. Enable Contactless Payments

Payments made at the point-of-service should be touch-free. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers began using contactless payment options for the first time. A study by the National Retail Federation found that 57% of consumers said they would continue to use contactless payment options in the future.

Healthcare organizations should accept contactless options such as tap-to-pay, Apple Pay and Google Pay. There are also opportunities to improve patient engagement when patients are in the office. Here, staff can talk to patients about other digital options, such as your patient portal and paperless billing. Proper training and scripting can increase staff effectiveness to improve the patient financial experience.

3. Set Up a User-Friendly Patient Portal

The payment experience after a patient visit is also important. Offer an intuitive patient portal complete with self-service payment options. Support payments by mobile and text to deliver true convenience to patients.

4. Accept Payments From Any Payment Channel

The payment channels mentioned above are provider-centric, meaning they originate with your organization. What about payment channels that are outside of your control? Many patients will visit their provider’s website for payment information. Yet, some patients may desire the convenience of paying bills at other points along their payment journey. To improve the patient financial experience, you must consider: where else do consumers go when paying healthcare-related bills? 

Health Plan Member Portals

Many healthcare consumers go to their health plan’s website first. Often, consumers won’t fully satisfy a bill until their health plan has returned an adjudicated explanation of benefits (EOB). If consumers are already visiting their health plan’s site to verify the accuracy of their bill, why not offer consumers the convenience of making a payment simultaneously? Here is what that consumer journey could look like:

  • A member logs into their plan website to review their EOB.
  • They see a balance due to the provider and can pay it through their health plan’s website.
  • The member pays the provider bill while looking at the insurance EOB, making them feel more confident in the billing amount and happy they do not have to log in to another portal.
  • The benefit to the provider is that you receive payment potentially before even mailing a bill – and you have a happy patient.

Bank Bill Payment Portals

Consumers have strong relationships with their banks. Many utilize bank bill payment portals to pay their expenses, such as utility bills. Why not let consumers pay healthcare bills in the same place they’re already paying other bills? Here is what the consumer journey could look like for a bank bill pay portal:

  • The consumer logs into their bank bill pay portal to pay their monthly bills. They also have a healthcare bill this month.
  • They pay all bills through the same familiar bank bill pay section of their bank portal.
  • The consumer is happy that they don’t have to log into yet another billing portal.
  • The provider has the added benefits of getting a postable payment file for their practice management system or payment accounting system.

5. Optimize Cash and Check Payments

There is no one solution for patient payments. There will always be consumers who prefer checks and paper. To support those consumers, you will likely maintain a lockbox. The goal is to deliver a great patient financial experience by offering payment options that meet the preferences of all of your patients.

Takeaways for a Better Patient Financial Experience

All of the options mentioned above are necessary to deliver a customized consumer engagement experience. To fully realize the promise of digital engagement, you need a platform that extends beyond your own managed domain, centered around the consumer as a consumer, not just the consumer as a patient.

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