What is it?
A digital wallet is an electronic device that allows a consumer to store payment information electronically so they can make a payment online.
Most consumers already use this kind of payment functionality on any number of ecommerce sites they frequent, but they might not realize they are managing a digital wallet. More than half of consumers pay for items online using a digital wallet.
Digital wallets make online payments easier by storing a consumer’s payment information and preferences for future use. Instead of digging out their credit card and entering the lengthy account number and billing address every time a consumer wants to make a payment, a digital wallet automatically populates the payment information at check-out, making the payment process faster and simpler.
What does this mean for healthcare?
Paper is expensive in healthcare. Between the costs to print and mail statements to depositing and posting paper checks, the average cost for a healthcare organization to collect a balance from a patient using paper processes is $3.00 per patient.
There’s still too much paper in healthcare. However, there is no single solution to this problem. You may want to stop using paper altogether but successful electronic adoption requires a more gradual approach. Start replacing paper with electronic alternatives – such as a consumer-friendly digital wallet – while looking for ways to drive patients to use those options and progressively reduce the amount of paper you use in your healthcare payments process.
Changing the Process
Most processes to collect healthcare payments today are paper-intensive. Paper-intensive processes are labor-intensive processes, which means you’re not only spending too much money on paper; your staff are spending too much time on paper-based processes, which adds operational costs on top of the hard costs of paper and postage.
Here’s where a digital wallet can help. A digital wallet should store multiple payment methods as well as payment preferences. This includes information about payment plans, automatic payments and maximum payment limits. Digital wallets should also store communication preferences, such as whether or not a patient is enrolled for eStatements or text message communications.
A digital wallet is a good start to transition from paper to electronic payments. Where you used to send paper statements in the mail, you can begin to send eStatements. Where your staff used to spend time on the phone tracking down payments, mailing payment reminders or telling patients how they can pay, you can send helpful text message notifications and deliver instructions automatically.
By enabling digital payments and communications at every touch point, you make it so a patient never has to be confused about how to pay. Instead of opening up an envelope filled with a stack of paper weeks or months after a healthcare encounter, patients open up an email, easily understand their payment responsibility and click to pay.
You also change the conversation your staff has with patients. By storing patient payment information and preferences, there never has to be any confusion about where payment is coming from. Now during the payment process, where your staff used to say “You owe $30.00.”, they can say “Can I use the payment method you’ve saved online to take payment?”.
Why is the payment experience important?
Your patients’ opinions are shaped by more than the quality of the care they receive. Their overall experience with your organization plays an important role in their satisfaction. Why does patient satisfaction matter? Patients who are satisfied with billing are 5x more likely to recommend a healthcare provider to others (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey).
A digital wallet transforms the patient experience from the point care is given through the end of the payment process by delivering a convenient way to pay and manage healthcare bills. As technology continues to develop, leverage these changing tools to help you change your payment process, your interactions with patients and the overall patient experience.