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By: Jeff Lin, Senior Vice President of Product Management, InstaMed

Why has consumerism become such a trend in healthcare discussions? To a provider, they are “patients” when they walk into the office for an annual checkup or a hospital emergency room. To a payer, they are “members” when they pay their premium or receive an explanation of benefits. Due to recent changes in the industry, patients and members have become empowered consumers driving change in an industry that is paying close attention, especially as it relates to healthcare payments.

InstaMed’s newly released Trends in Healthcare Payments Annual Report 2014 features key trends that demonstrate the need for a more consumer-centric service model for payers and providers and outlines key best practices. The report compiles quantitative data from the InstaMed Network processed between 2011 and 2015 and includes qualitative data from 100,000 providers, 3,000 payers and 1,000 consumers nationwide.

Some of the highlights of this report are outlined below.

From 2011 to 2014, the total number of consumer-initiated payments to providers increased by 193 percent.

Over the last decade, payment responsibility has steadily shifted to consumers due to factors such as growing high deductible health plan enrollment and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Due to these trends, the total dollars paid by consumers directly to providers has grown significantly.

The challenge now is that providers, who previously relied on payments from just a few payers, need to bill and collect payments directly from hundreds or even thousands of their patients. To ensure these payments are collected in a timely manner, healthcare providers and payers must identify tactics that accommodate consumer expectations for simple, transparent billing and electronic, convenient ways to pay.

A total of 72 percent of providers indicated that it takes more than one month to collect from a consumer.

Consumers expect a simple and convenient healthcare payment experience as they have seen in other industries, including the retail and travel industries. When a consumer wants to buy clothes or book a trip, they can simply visit a website and pay electronically. However, only 20 percent of consumers currently report paying their healthcare bills on-line, according to research done with Aite in June.

Approximately 93 percent of consumers indicated that they wanted to pay their healthcare bills online.

As the healthcare payment system becomes more dependent on direct consumer payments, it is imperative that they adopt solutions that allow them to easily collect those payments. InstaMed’s data confirms that card payments made over the phone and through online portals by consumers expanded to 85 percent of gross dollar volume of payments in 2014. A focus on streamlining the consumer payment experience will ultimately improve collection rates, increase customer satisfaction and enhance provider profitability and cash flow.

Online payments made from a mobile device expanded to 11 percent of gross dollar volume of payments.

The growing use of mobile devices has enabled consumers 24/7 access to email and online services – 63 percent of consumers use their mobile devices exclusively to go online. Consumer payments overall from a mobile device have increased from 2 percent in 2011 to 11 percent in 2014. This indicates that consumers will use electronic payment options including mobile, especially as millennials now make up the largest portion of the workforce.

Trends in Healthcare Payments Fifth Annual Report: 2014 identifies the business drivers for payers and providers and the changes they are making to focus on consumer preferences, improve cash flow, enhance data security and operate more efficiently. These trends highlight quantitative data from the InstaMed Network and feature qualitative proprietary survey data from providers, payers and consumers.

Jeff Lin is senior vice president of product management at InstaMed. He leads the exploration, evolution and execution of InstaMed products. The report may be downloaded at www.instamed.com/trends.

This article was originally published by Inside Healthcare.

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