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Payment integration has been around in healthcare for a long time. Since InstaMed was founded, we’ve been delivering new ways to integrate payments into healthcare organizations’ systems. Integration options range from automated payment posting all the way to fully embedding payment functionality within a provider’s clinical portal. Historically, providers determine the level of payment integration they require based on their business needs. Lately, there is a greater urgency among healthcare providers for new and easier ways to integrate payment. We’ve identified four industry trends that are driving that urgency:

  1. Patients Owe More Than Ever Before

Increasing patient payment responsibility means providers are relying on patients – rather than payers – for more of their revenue. In 2016, healthcare spending grew to $3.4 trillion and is expected to reach $5.5 trillion by the year 2025. Much of this growth has been and continues to be spurred by increasing consumer payments for healthcare services and health plan premiums. Overall, consumer spending in the healthcare industry is expected to grow to $608 billion by 2019. The average deductible for covered workers with single coverage has doubled from $735 in 2010 to $1,478 in 2016. This increased patient responsibility means providers need to collect more from patients more frequently and in higher amounts than they ever had to before. As a result, efficiency and manual processes are being closely reviewed and scrutinized by healthcare organizations that want to maximize their patient payment collections. There is a lot to gain from payment integration that will enable the automation of most manual processes.

  1. Patients Have More Choices and Demands When It Comes to Their Healthcare

Payments have evolved rapidly in the last decade. New technologies have transformed the way we pay for things and adoption of new technologies is constantly accelerating. For example, Venmo processed $8 billion in the second quarter of 2017. This was twice as much payment volume processed in the same period of 2016, and Venmo is expected to process $40 million by the end of the year. Payment options like Venmo are the new normal for payment experiences in other industries. Unfortunately, most payment experiences in healthcare don’t measure up to the convenience of Venmo. Today, a consumer goes out to dinner one night and uses Venmo to split the bill among friends in real time, then visits their provider the next morning only to face a slow and manual payments experience from the last century. Providers that don’t leverage payment integration to offer consumer-friendly payment options are likely to see a negative impact on their patient satisfaction, patient retention and their bottom line.

  1. It’s Increasingly Expensive to Collect From Patients

The bigger the gap between the payments experience you deliver and the experiences your patients have in other industries, the harder it will be to collect from patients. If you can’t support convenient, automated payment processes, then you’re going to push patients further from their comfort zone and create more obstacles to collecting payments. When your staff has to work harder to collect from patients, your costs to collect increase. You’re going to end up sending more statements, making more outbound phone calls and risking non-payment as patients who are outside of their payment comfort zone will neglect to pay.

  1. You Only Get One First Impression With Your Patients

Across your healthcare organization, you’re looking at patient satisfaction ratings as a key performance indicator. Patient satisfaction matters when it comes to your bottom line: hospitals with excellent HCAHPS patient ratings between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7% compared to just 1.8% for hospitals with low ratings. This is why it’s so important to deliver on patient satisfaction. Since we know that patients have choices when it comes to their healthcare, you must ensure that the first impression you leave on your patients is a positive one, and this includes the billing and payment experience. We know that patient satisfaction ratings fall by an average of more than 30% from post-discharge through the billing process. Without payment integration, it can be difficult to deliver a great payments experience. Consider this scenario: you tell a patient they owe $50. They go online to pay, but after they complete the payment, their balance on your patient portal does not reflect that a payment has been made. Concerned, the patient calls your office to ask about the payment, but since you don’t have payment integration, your staff doesn’t have real-time visibility into payment status. Your staff assures the patient that the payment will post in a few days, but before it does, a statement has been generated and mailed to your patient, indicating that they still owe $50. Your patient is frustrated, but this all could have been prevented with payment integration.

So, how can payment integration help?

Improve the Experience for Patients
Payment integration makes it easier to offer more convenient payment options to patients. You can enable patients to make payments through any payment channel (e.g., online, mobile, over the phone, through their bank’s bill pay site, etc.), with all payments posting to your existing system in real-time. This means if a patient makes a payment through your patient portal, their balance information immediately updates to reflect the payment and both the patient and your staff see the same updated balance information.

Reduce Time and Costs to Collect
In a previous blog post, we determined that it can take up to eight minutes to collect a patient payment with manual processes. When payment is integrated into your existing system, you are able to automate most of the processes your staff currently performs manually. If you leverage one integrated payment vendor, you establish a single source of data that contains all the information you need to know about what payments were collected. As a result, you eliminate manual effort to post payments, which eliminates errors such as double-entry. Costs savings are a result of payment integration triggering automation such as automated payment collection and statement suppression that increases time to payment and reduces print and mail costs.

Reduce Security Risks and Compliance Efforts
Security and compliance for healthcare have become more complex, as the industry continues to be a primary target for hackers and other cybercriminals. If payment integration is done correctly, there are many opportunities to reduce the amount of exposure your organization has to sensitive payment data, which can significantly reduce your PCI compliance efforts. Also, payment integration allows you to decrease the number of handoffs that occur in the payments process, which can reduce the risk of payment data being intercepted or touching your networks. As a result, your organization is at less risk of a breach and your ongoing compliance efforts much easier for your staff.

The first step to payment integration is to select a payment vendor to partner with. Many payment vendors can deliver some of the above benefits through payment integration. However, you want to work with a vendor who is committed to innovation in order to continue to see benefits and ROI from your partnership. Work with a vendor who is committed to being on the cutting edge of payment technology and security, so that when it comes time to meet new compliance standards or implement EMV and Apple Pay at your point-of-sale, you can do so quickly and seamlessly. You also want your payment vendor to be committed to integration with your practice management system (PMS). As a technology solution, your PMS will continue to evolve and innovate as well; if your payment vendor isn’t paying attention to what your PMS is doing, you could face roadblocks when your PMS releases a new upgrade.

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