Guest Blogger: Jeff Lin, Senior Vice President, Product Management
Last week I visited my primary care doctor for an annual check-up. I arrived at the appointment early, so I signed in and sat down in the waiting area. I immediately pulled out my iPhone to keep me occupied while I waited. In the span of five minutes, I replied to some work emails, made dinner reservations, paid my phone bill and bought a new pair of headphones on Amazon.
Twenty-five years ago, I couldn’t have been so productive. Instead of my iPhone, I might have pulled out a newspaper, turned a few pages and stumbled upon this Radio Shack ad:
In reality, I found this ad in a Huffington Post article I was reading on my phone. Today, the ad reads archaic; the capabilities of most of the products advertised are standard functionalities of my iPhone. I have no need to own a camcorder, a CD player or an answering machine because it’s all there in my pocket – and at an affordable price. Everything in the Radio Shack ad would have cost me $3,054.82 in 1991, which is about $5,388.24 in 2016. My iPhone cost me about $200 with a data plan.
So what does this have to do with healthcare payments? In comparing the ad to an iPhone, we see the evolution of technologies. Twenty-five years ago, emerging technologies were presented to the public in a disjointed way, with different products and hardware serving different functions. In today’s digital age, most consumers have access to technologies that deliver convenience to every aspect of their lives. As a result, consumers have high expectations for digital experiences, and are influencing change in economies and industries.
The healthcare industry is not exempt from the influence of consumerism. InstaMed’s Trends in Healthcare Payments Sixth Annual Report: 2015 revealed that one of the key trends affecting providers is that consumers are driving change in healthcare payments. This trend is due to rising patient payment responsibility causing consumers to be more sensitive to how much they spend on healthcare. As a result, consumers are more invested in their healthcare decisions, and they bring experiences from innovators in other industries – such as clear payment communication and convenient, digital payment options – to set expectations for the healthcare payments experience.
If healthcare organizations cannot meet consumer payment expectations, it could have a significant impact on their bottom line. According to the Accenture 2014 Global Consumer Pulse Survey, 40% of consumers would choose a healthcare provider with more digital capabilities over a provider with less digital capabilities when searching for a new provider.
As the new stakeholder in the healthcare payments industry, consumers want convenient, digital experiences to pay and manage their healthcare expenses. Here are three ways providers can deliver:
Deliver a Digital Experience with Online and Mobile Payment Options
According to the Trends in Healthcare Payments Sixth Annual Report: 2015, 75% of consumers opt to pay their household bills through online payment channels, including bank bill pay portals, websites and mobile apps. Providers can deliver the same experience for healthcare payments. One option is to set up an online portal where consumers easily pay their bills, access details about past payments and set up a digital wallet to manage their saved payment methods. The added benefit is that the easier providers can make the payment process, the more likely consumers are to pay.
Eliminate Paper Altogether
There’s too much paper in healthcare. If you were to connect all of the paper statements healthcare providers mailed to consumers in the past year, you could circle the globe nearly six times! Not only is so much paper wasteful, but it goes against consumer preferences. According to the Trends in Healthcare Payments Sixth Annual Report: 2015, 87% of consumers reported receiving a paper medical bill, while only 24% wanted to use paper checks for healthcare payments. Instead of mailing statements, providers can communicate payment responsibility with consumers using digital communication channels. Email and text messaging are convenient, paperless ways to communicate payment responsibility, and they offer the ability to direct consumers to make a payment online with just one click.
Be Upfront About Costs
Let’s think back to that Radio Shack ad. The price of each item was clearly stated so consumers would know exactly what to expect if they decided to buy. Now, it’s not quite that simple when it comes to healthcare costs, but providers can still improve the consumer experience by clearly communicating estimated payment responsibility and setting payment expectations upfront. According to the Trends in Healthcare Payments Sixth Annual Report: 2015, 91% of consumers reported that it was important to know payment responsibility prior to a provider visit. To meet this expectation, providers can leverage technology to deliver an estimate of what a consumer will actually pay based on their benefit information, which includes variables like their deductible, copayments and coinsurance.
Learn more about consumerism and the other trends impacting payers, providers and consumers by downloading your own copy of the Trends in Healthcare Payments Sixth Annual Report: 2015.