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Contactless payments can help hospitals and health systems save time and money. As consumers increasingly want contactless interactions for convenience and safety, these payment options enable organizations to deliver positive consumer experiences.

Healthcare Sees a Surge in Demand for Contactless Interactions

Contactless interactions are more common in recent years due to advances in technology and consumer demand for the convenience of touch-free transactions. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to limit in-person visits, contactless options became the only choice for some.

Telehealth Usage Increased

This shift is most clearly seen in healthcare by the surge in telehealth – a surge that the American Hospital Association sees as largely positive due to telemedicine’s ability to increase access to specialists, avoid hospitalizations and improve outcomes.

The Waiting Room Changed

Pandemic-related restrictions also changed the waiting room experience for healthcare organizations. Many elements of the check-in process, like checking eligibility and collecting co-pays, moved online or over the phone. Instead of sitting in a waiting room, healthcare offices asked patients to text when they arrived and wait for a response before entering the building. Many patients view these changes as improvements. 78% of consumers say they want contactless options made more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic to remain in the future.

Contactless Payments Became a Necessity

Since 2020, preventing the spread of germs has been top of mind for most people. The idea of touching a keypad to enter your debit card pin at a hospital front desk makes many cringe. The pandemic caused a shift to digital payments, and it looks like they are here to stay. According to Visa, tap-to-pay transactions grew more than 30% year over year from March 2020 to March 2021.

Tap-to-pay is just one contactless payment method. Mobile payment systems like Apple Pay® or Google Pay™ offer consumers another way to pay at the point-of-sale without touching a shared surface. Online payments are also a form of contactless payments because they don’t require physical contact with another person or shared device.

Touch-free payments grew in healthcare as well. 54% of providers changed their contactless payment strategy due to the COVID-19 pandemic by offering new payment channels and encouraging digital payments. Looking ahead, how do hospitals and health systems stand to benefit from enabling contactless payment options across patient interaction points?

Contactless Payments Drive a Better Patient Experience

Consumers like the convenience of contactless payments. There’s no need to carry around cash or a checkbook. Whether it’s tap-to-pay or using a saved credit card to make an online purchase, contactless payments are fast and easy.

Often, contactless payments accompany tools that make it easier for consumers to manage finances, such as a digital view of transaction history. This is particularly important in healthcare due to increasing consumer costs and confusion often associated with healthcare bills. By offering contactless options, hospitals give patients the ability to pay the way they want – whether that’s through a patient portal, over the phone or through a consumer-driven channel like bank bill pay or a health plan member portal.

For example, if a patient pays a bill through their hospital’s online portal, that portal should offer the ability to view payment history and print receipts. This self-service capability is much easier than calling the hospital’s billing office and speaking with a rep to locate a payment over the phone.

Studies indicate contactless payments may be evolving from a consumer preference to a requirement. Visa’s survey of small businesses and consumers revealed that 47% of consumers say they will not shop at a store that doesn’t offer a contactless way to pay.

Revenue Cycle Teams Can Save Time and Reduce Costs

Paper and manual processes can slow down hospital revenue cycle teams. Recording cash received in the front office or checks in the mail takes a considerable amount of time. What’s more, manual posting and reconciliation processes can lend themselves to human error.

Contact-free payments can optimize the revenue cycle and help relieve some of the administrative burden on hospital revenue cycle teams. The less paper that billing and payment staff need to handle, the faster transactions can be processed.

Well-integrated payments can automate posting and reconciliation, as well as streamline workflows by eliminating multiple logins and simplifying patient refunds. Revenue cycle teams will have more time and can allocate more resources to high-priority projects.

Treasury Leaders Can Improve Cash Flow

Key priorities for hospital treasury leaders include driving efficiencies in the revenue cycle supporting growth initiatives by facilitating cash flow and increasing the strategic value of the treasury function. Contactless payments can help treasury teams achieve these goals.

Contactless payments are often faster because they are delivered by electronic channels. Treasury teams can see an improvement in days cash on hand by omitting the time it takes to receive and process payments via snail mail.

Treasury leaders can also look to contact-free channels to increase cash flow. Consumer-driven channels like bank bill pay portals give patients the option to use the digital methods they prefer. When consumers can pay how they want, they are more likely to pay and have higher satisfaction rates.

Security and IT Teams Can Reduce PCI Scope

The idea of opening new contactless payment channels may give IT and Security teams pause. In reality, electronic payment methods are extremely secure. Technology such as near field communication (NFC), point-to-point encryption (P2PE) and tokenization protect payment data.

When Boston Children’s Hospital decided to start a “cashless initiative,” payment security became part of the equation. Their goal was to increase efficiencies in their revenue cycle by driving credit card and digital payments, which involve PCI scope. The way in which the digital payment options were implemented and integrated enabled the hospital to reduce PCI scope by 99%.

What Does the Future of Payments for Hospitals Look Like?

Contactless payments are here to stay, and hospitals stand to benefit. What does this mean for the future of healthcare? Read: The Future of Contactless Payments for Hospitals.

Patient Engagement and the COVID-19 Pandemic

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