Andrew Kouba, CFO, Abilene Diagnostic Clinic
What are your predictions for healthcare payments in 2017?
I think healthcare is going to keep moving away from paper. So many industries are completely digital, and plenty of others are much further along with digitalization compared to healthcare. However, healthcare is making significant strides towards eliminating paper and I think there are a few consistent trends that are driving that move. First, paper is costly. With increasing costs of paper and postage, mailing a paper statement—and often multiple statements per healthcare encounter—really adds up. Paper is also a negative consumer experience. According to InstaMed’s Sixth Annual Trends in Healthcare Payments Report, 84% of consumers receive paper bills from their providers, yet only 24% of consumers prefer to pay by check. Finally, paper is slow and inefficient. When a patient can pay a healthcare bill online, the provider gets paid faster. If payment is integrated into your source A/R system, then the whole process becomes even more streamlined and other functionality, such as reporting, can be optimized.
What do you consider to be the biggest achievement for the healthcare payments industry in recent years?
I’m glad to see the industry appealing more to the consumers. With consumer payment responsibility continuing to increase annually, provider organizations have been relying more heavily on patients, rather than payers, for their revenue. If consumers have a negative and confusing healthcare payment experience, they are far less likely to pay on time, if at all. Catering the healthcare payments experience to consumers ultimately benefits all stakeholders because when consumers understand how to pay their healthcare bills and can easily make those payments, providers get paid faster, write off less to bad debt and have fewer days in A/R. As a CFO of a large diagnostic clinic, I’ve seen first-hand the revenue cycle benefits of investing in a better consumer healthcare payments experience.
What do you think is currently the biggest challenge to simplifying healthcare payments?
When it comes to payments, I think a lot of healthcare providers view every single healthcare encounter as an individual healthcare bill. I think this mindset comes from the way we submit claims to the health insurer; we submit claims per encounter and procedure, not per patient. However, this is not the way the patient views their healthcare encounter. If a patient has a major surgery, they don’t divvy up the experience by procedure, separating radiology from anesthesia from the actual surgery. They just see the whole experience as their healthcare encounter. Then a few weeks pass by and they receive multiple bills for each aspect of their surgery. A better experience is for the patient to receive one bill that consolidates all of their healthcare expenses into one easy-to-understand statement. We need to start billing patients the way they understand their healthcare experience.
If you could change one thing about the way your organization handles the healthcare payments process today, what would it be?
One of our clinic’s top priorities for 2017 is to improve collection efforts on patient responsibility. Partnering with InstaMed as the patient collection platform, we are striving to improve the patient experience by reducing the element of surprise that is typically associated with the healthcare payments process. For starters, we are trying to deliver a more accurate picture of the patient’s financial responsibility during the pre-registration as well as the check-in and checkout process. Incorporating InstaMed’s payment estimator tool during this initial encounter brings an immediate snapshot of the patient responsibility. We believe this clarity will not only improve the patient experience, but prevent common mistakes of over and under collecting at the point of service. Patients do not always have the luxury of planning ahead for the services they receive, especially for primary care. As health insurers continue to shift financial burdens to the patient, our clinic must be flexible and have real-time solutions. With the ability to tailor payment plans and auto payment settings, our leadership team can set parameters that meet the clinic’s cash flow obligation while giving our patients the flexibility to customize their own payment plan so that, they too, can meet their personal financial needs. It’s a balancing act, but we feel it best serves our patient base and reduces the likelihood of a patient neglect of care due to financial restraints.
Have you been to Philadelphia before?
I have not had the opportunity to visit Philadelphia, so I’m especially looking forward to making the visit this Spring.
What are you most excited to see when you get here?
I always enjoy taking in the layout and various architecture of a new city. I was hoping my first visit to Philadelphia would include a Phillies game, but I will happily settle for finding a few good restaurants and taking in the local sights.
What are you most looking forward to at the InstaMed User Conference 2017?
I’m excited to talk to InstaMed users about our success with InstaMed One Bill. With One Bill, we’re delivering our patients a revolutionary billing and payments experience by consolidating their statements—across providers and across family members—onto one, easy-to-read statement. Our patients that still prefer paper see this functionality implemented in paper bills they receive in the mail. They can then pay however they want, including logging on to our patient portal and seeing all of the same balances online. Our patients can then elect to pay all or some of the outstanding balances, with different payment methods per balance, if they prefer. It’s the most Uber-like or Amazon-like healthcare payments experience out there, and the reaction from our patients has been extremely positive.
Wiz wit or wiz witout?
Always, wiz wit!