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Like many lab organizations, TriCore Reference Laboratories sees a high volume of patients with small balances. They knew they needed to make changes to collect payments efficiently and better connect with their patients. Working with InstaMed, TriCore set out to reduce bad debt and improve cashflows by enabling patients to pay while in their patient care centers.

Denise Mazon, Director of Payer Strategy and Revenue Management at TriCore, explains her experience implementing the new payments process. Watch this fireside chat to learn more about how TriCore delivers a streamlined payment experience and engage patients.

Read Through The Transcript

Claire:Denise welcome and thank you for being here. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today.
Denise:Thanks, Claire. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today.
Claire:Well, I’m excited to be here virtually with you to discuss best practices, especially as healthcare providers, are being challenged with what we consider the new normal in a COVID-19 environment.

Denise you are the Director of Payer Strategy and Revenue Management at TriCore Reference Laboratories. TriCore is the largest medical laboratory in New Mexico. When we first met Denise TriCore was looking for ways on how to change the ways you are collecting from your patients. Before working with InstaMed, can you describe what your process was for collecting patient payments, and how did that impact your cash flow?
Denise:Absolutely, so in the laboratory industry there is no defined co-pay for laboratory services, which really makes it a challenge for us to know what to collect from patients at the time of service when they’re presenting to our patient care centers.

The patient deductible and co-insurance is often determined by the patient’s benefit structure for wellness benefits, their diagnosis, and the payer’s criteria for medical necessity really determines what the patient might be responsible for.

Because of this, we were relying solely on the patient making payment after they received their statement which, after the claim is adjudicated by the payer. So we would receive payment via mail, they would call in their payments, they would make payments on our payment portal. We had tried collecting from them at our patient care centers in years past, but it was such a challenge that we had to stop doing it. It was just too difficult.

However, we knew we needed to make changes and we needed new ways to connect with our patients and try to collect from them. The protecting access to Medicare Act was reducing our third-party reimbursements and more patients were choosing the high deductible health plans. So, we were exploring all avenues to reduce our bad debt and improve our cash flow.

Collecting payment upfront in our Patient Care centers was something we really wanted to do, but it was going to be a very big change for our phlebotomists. We were looking for the right partner to work with, and that’s when I had connected with you.
Claire:Well, you know, I really appreciate the background, Denise. It seems that there was a lot of statements being sent out, and not a lot of great channels for patients to be able to make payments. So, let’s fast-forward to today, what impact did InstaMed bring to your organization?
Denise:Sure, working with InstaMed allowed us to create a really smooth workflow in our patient care centers by integrating the InstaMed portal into our current registration system. This made it a natural flow for our phlebotomists.

We’re still faced with the challenge of collecting from the patient for today’s service when they present for a new service because there’s still no defined co-pay, but it still gave us a new touchpoint to collect from patients for any unpaid balances.

And InstaMed gave us the option of an Auto Pay Collect feature that our previous portal did not offer.

Since the go live, we have seen a 30% increase in our online payments, patient payments, and an increase of about 115% of patients storing their payment card on file with us.
Claire:Wow, those are some really high stats. I mean 150% of being able to store a card on file is really incredible.

I understand that one of the biggest concerns was training and how the patients would react to collecting payments upfront. How did you train your staff and how did the phlebotomists react to this new change of asking payments upfront?
Denise:Yeah, so the staff training actually went very well. We have over 30 patient care centers throughout the state of New Mexico. And so, we rolled the new process out over the course of a couple of months.

We started with a pilot location, which really allowed us to determine the right workflow, workout any tweaks, adjust workflow as necessary, etc. Then, from there, we did a Train the Trainer session. So, all the trainers for each of the locations came to our core laboratory and did a training with our IT staff. Then from there, they went out and they trained their staff so that we could roll it out to their locations. The feedback from the phlebotomists, because this is a very new function for them to do, was very positive and they’ve all said that it was a lot easier than they were anticipating. So that was very positive, and we were excited about that.
Claire:Oh, that’s great. I mean, I think that’s always a challenge for, you know, providers when they think about how they’re going to change the conversation by asking upfront. Vice versa, how did your patients react to asking for payment upfront? I know that’s also a huge concern for organizations, asking for that money from the patient at the point of service.
Denise:Right – yeah, the response from the patients was actually positive too. In all honesty, they were far more receptive than I thought they would be. Patients have shared that they were happy that we gave them this additional option to make their payments at the patient care centers. And we’ve even had one patient who told us, it was about time that we did it, so it was far more positive than I thought it was going to be!
Claire:I mean, that is very unique, somebody asking to take their money so that’s a great reaction to hear.

As we wrap up, we can’t not ask about COVID-19. Now, given your role and expertise, how have you found the pandemic impacted healthcare providers and what best practices would you suggest for patient payments?
Denise:Yeah. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted healthcare providers in ways that they had not experienced in the past. During the shutdowns, most patients were only seeking urgent care or emergent care services, and that had financial implications to health care providers who are not in that position to be urgent care providers are emergent.

They, a lot of them ended up, you know, furloughing employees where in the past they not had to do things like that before, or they just outright laid them off.

The COVID test itself, it has no patient cost share associated with it. And for us, that, you know, that’s been the bulk of our volume for months. But as patients have slowly started to seek those non-emergent or non-urgent services again, they’re slowly going back to their normal providers for their routine care.

It is beneficial that we can offer contactless payment solutions through our InstaMed portal and at our patient care centers for them and help them to feel safe about making their payments.
Claire:Well, thank you so much Denise. I appreciate you taking the time to be with me today. You know, I’m sure a lot of people probably have questions about those best practices that you put in place. Would you be open to talking to them?
Denise:Absolutely, of course. I’m happy to help out.
Claire:Great, well for best practices please reach out to your account executive, we’ll get you in touch with Denise: to set up a call. And again, Denise thank you so much for speaking with me today. It’s always great to see you and I look forward to hopefully seeing you soon.
Denise:Thanks, Claire. It’s always fun talking to you.
Claire:Have a good day.
Denise:You too.
Claire:Thanks.
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