Mar 17 , 2015

One simple way to improve patient collections by 50%

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Last week, on July 4th, after a grueling CrossFit workout, I bought myself a barbacoa bowl (with guac, to celebrate) at a Chipotle, using their app. Why is that notable? Well, my gym and the Chipotle were only a mile away from my house, but I didn’t have access to any credit cards or cash, because I had left my wallet in my dad’s apartment. Him and my stepmom were visiting her parents and would not be home till after the long weekend. So, essentially, I had no tangible, physical methods of paying. But, I was still able to pay for a variety of things, in order to stock up and weather the long weekend, until my dad came back. Because I’m a millennial and I was raised with technology, I had always relied on credit cards and rarely on cash. As technology takes over more and more of our lives, this has become increasingly the norm.

But this isn’t true in all aspects of caregiving. Despite this progress in technology, the doctor’s office still remains the last bastion of the envelope and stamp mode of payment. Due to suffering from Bipolar Disorder, to check my lithium levels, I’ve had to have quite a bit of blood work done. Blood work that is ordered by and partially charged to my Mental Health Care provider. They then charge me for the amount that they were charged. Even after three years of having this done, I still get a patient statement and an envelope folded with a return address. While major health systems and big lab companies like LabCorp and Quest have allowed payments online, the people who really rely on the cash-flow from patients have not been given the tools to graduate to the age of electronic payments.

So, why not give your patients the ability to pay online? Here are some of the benefits that both you and your patient can get out of it:

It will increase your collections. Consider this: about 40% of consumers use the website of the healthcare provider to pay last minute bills and avoid going into default. Why not give them the ability to pay online and avoid having to deal with debt collectors? Make it even easier and give them mobile platforms or applications to pay their bills on the go, like while they are waiting for that latte at Starbucks, or while they’re waiting in your waiting room.

It’ll save you expensenses, therefore increasing your revenue. Calculate the cost of the envelope, the stamp, the paper statement and the man hours involved in preparing and sending out the patient statements. That’s a lot of wasted time.

You can stop paying those collection agencies. Most people are not defaulting on payments because they don’t want to pay, nor are they doing this because they have no money. They just procrastinate.  It is still a hassle to write a check and stuff it in an envelope, get a stamp and then find a mailbox. When the collection agency calls them, offering to set up a payment plan or offering an easier method of payment, most of those patients pay up on the first call. That means you have paid the agency 20%-30% fee for collections, just because you have not found a way to make it easier for them to pay. This represents a massive potential loss of revenue that you just paid to a collection agency.

It is a great marketing tool. How so? 82% of people who visit the website of someone who bills them, go there in order to pay a bill. These are people who probably wouldn’t have come to your website otherwise and consequently wouldn’t have seen that new program you just launched. Businesses are paying thousands of dollars every month to drive traffic to their website to generate more leads and customers. Here, you have a chance to get paid and get more traffic to your site.

It lets you work with and communicate with your patients. Online payments allow you to send patients reminders and alerts. 52% of consumers want to receive reminders and alerts. I know I do. The same study also found that 54% of those that receive paper bills would be interested in having paperless billing.

Wireless bill pay is where the world is going. Online payments are expected to continue increasing in popularity. In 2011, 60% of households had paid a bill online. This figure had risen to 74% in 2013. How much do you think it has gone up in 6 years? 

If you are using an all inclusive EHR, all you have to do is input your payment gateway credentials and you are ready to collect payments online via the patient portal. If not here is what you have to do to get your payments online

  • Make sure your EHR provider has a good and secure and usable patient portal that has the ability to collect patient payments.
  • Make sure your EHR provider has an integrated practice management system. Many of them do not. Without the practice management piece you are not going to get your patient balances to reflect in the portal.
  • You need a gateway or service provider like PayPal, with whom you have to establish a contract and negotiate your fees.
  • Make sure you can use any gateway you want with your portal. Most EHR and PMS systems have deals with certain payment gateways to get kickbacks from the processing fees the gateways charge you. If that is the case, you do not have the leverage to negotiate your own terms
  • It would help tremendously if the patient portal can be white labeled, so that it can be changed to reflect your website brand and can be integrated to your website. In other words, the patients come to YOUR website to make the payment, not to some other patient portal. That is where your marketing benefits are most accrued.

[ Read More: 3 Essential elements improve medical billing Collections ]

Patient portals are an important tool for a successful practice. It is not just for patient engagement or to meet Meaningful Use criteria. If you find the right patient portal, it becomes a revenue generation and marketing tool that can add to your bottom line.

Thank you for reading. I hope this has been informative. I’m now going to go pick up Nando’s, which I pre-ordered through my iPhone app, using Apple Pay.