Paying the medical bill can be as grueling for the doctor as for the patient. The last thing a physician – especially a solo practitioner or one in a small office – needs is a delay in payment or a drawn-out process, for one reason or another.
Two examples show how mHealth can play a part in easing that tension. With InstaMed, a national provider of online payment solutions, the addition of Apple Pay to its platform means patients, providers and payers can more easily manage the patient-facing part of the bill. And when there are problems with the bill, CoPatient offers a mobile platform whereby patients and providers can work out the issues.
The two solutions target a growing trend in healthcare: patient-facing medical bills that aren’t paid on time, if at all. Studies have indicated some 20 percent of consumers have unpaid medical bills, and with mobile payments expecting to top $142 billion by 2019, that doctor’s bill is going to keep on rising.
InstaMed, based in Philadelphia and Newport Beach, Calif., this week became the first healthcare company to integrate Apple Pay into its platform, and has announced that some 50 health systems are on board with the technology. Chris Seib, InstaMed’s co-founder and chief technology officer, said the move to integrate Apple Pay follows a trend in healthcare to “do business on the consumer’s terms.”
“There are a lot of things going on in (healthcare payment technology) right now,” he told mHealth News. “Convenience is a big factor, and providers are finding they’re able to accept payments in multiple ways.”
The integration also follows a well-trod path: Apple is charging into the healthcare market with its HealthKit and ResearchKit platforms, and even the company’s Apple Watch has providers and entrepreneurs looking to innovative uses for this form factor; early apps have focused on communication and scheduling functions.
Seib envisions Apple Pay being used for everything from paying bills at the hospital or doctor’s office to managing health insurance premiums and correspondences with one’s health plan.
The biggest concern is privacy and security. Apple Pay relies on near-field communications technology, he said, which ensures that no data is stored on the device or Apple servers. Each transaction is given a unique Device Account Number and a one-time security code that’s erased after the transaction.
But what if the consumer disagrees with the bill? CoPatient has that angle covered.
“Mistakes are frequent,” whether it’s due to erroneous charges, wrong codes or billing discrepancies that affect reimbursement, said Rebecca Palm, CoPatient’s co-founder. The Boston-based startup serves not only to solve those errors, but review medical bills for savings opportunities.
“A lot of times, consumers just need an expert pair of eyes,” Palm told mHealth News, adding that roughly 75 percent of the cases submitted to the company have yielded chances to save money. “Not only does this help the consumer, but providers are also really challenged (by unpaid bills). This is just reducing a lot of the swirl that happens.”
Using the CoPatient app, a consumer uploads all medical bills for review, and receives a free estimated savings report. If the consumer agrees, an “expert patient advocate” negotiates with providers and payers to reduce that bill.
Palm said providers can gain as much from this process as patients. They don’t want to struggle with patients over co-payments, she pointed out, or see any delays in payment. Having a third party review the process not only improves the chances of payment, but could highlight errors in billing or coding that the provider can then correct.
“It’s really a big convenience factor for them,” she said.