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By Franco Rizzolo, DC – Partner and Administrator at Suburban Orthopaedic Medical Center, LLC

I’m a partner and administrator for a medical center in Newark, N.J., and lately I’ve been talking to a lot of my colleagues about trending patient payments.

I’ve also been doing some research on the topic. Two interesting statistics stood out to me while reading the Trends in Healthcare Payments Annual Report: 2012:

  • 83 percent of providers said it took more than a month to collect from a patient after claim adjudication.
  • 72 percent of patients said they would be interested in paying their healthcare bills online.

These statistics certainly point out a big disconnect between providers and their patients. Although patients want to pay healthcare bills online at their convenience, they wait weeks or months after their visits to receive a paper statement in the mail and eventually send back a paper check.

Another interesting statistic is that providers are writing off billions of dollars of bad debt every year, which is disproportionately higher in healthcare than in other industries where patients are paying a higher rate for services. Clearly we need to make it as convenient for patients to pay as it is in those industries. As patients are responsible for a growing portion of their healthcare bills, we cannot afford to ignore their desire to manage those bills as they do their other bills, such as through online portals.

Connecting with patients
When claims are processed by health plans, patients receive a breakdown of their payment responsibility in an explanation of benefits (EOB) form. This document can be a helpful tool to patients in managing claims, viewing benefit amounts and planning future payments to providers.

However, health plans and providers are missing the opportunity to bridge together claim management and healthcare payments.

Depending on claim processing times, patients can receive the EOB within a week or two after the initial visit with the provider – whereas a paper statement from a provider can take a month or more to reach the patient. Why not facilitate payments when patients receive EOBs so that patients pay as soon as they find out what they owe?

Convenient payments
Many health plans offer patients an online portal to manage their claims and benefit amounts. InstaMed, a firm specializing in payment processing, works with health plans to enable patients to pay all of their healthcare providers through their member portal.

As a provider using this technology, I receive patients payments directly deposited into my bank account. The payments are much easier to post into my practice management system, and I never have to send a statement. As a result, I’ve been receiving these payments three to five times faster, while eliminating the time and costs spent collecting using paper statements.

With this innovative payment technology, my office is prepared for the upcoming changes in the industry due to healthcare reform, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to connect with patients quickly and more conveniently for payments.

This article was originally published by Medical Practice Insider.

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