Digital convenience is driving a change in consumer habits. Combine that with the shift to high-deductible health plans, and the result is patients paying more attention to the quality, cost and amenities available to them around the care they receive.
Patient Payment Trends
Zirmed and Navicure published the 2018 Patient Payment Check-Up survey report, which provides key insights into financial collections, communications and methods across both patients and providers. Here’s what we found interesting in patient trends:
The desire for digital payment options is growing across age groups.
As you might expect, younger patients continue to seek digital convenience when it comes to payments. However, a third of patients over 75 years old said they’d prefer to pay their next bill with a credit card on file. It should come as no surprise that this attitude is starting to change across age groups. As more technology is introduced, more generations are adopting it.
Digital correspondence is preferred for billing communications.
The survey report also found that 45 percent of patients today prefer their bills be sent via email, a patient portal or text message, and that patients remain highly comfortable sharing digital contact info to improve billing communications (compared with 2017 data). So paper continues to be a less favored means of communication.
What does this mean for your health care practice? As patient payments continue to change, your practice needs to change, too.
How Your Practice Can Keep Up
Did you know that the majority of patients are aware of and feel responsible for paying for health care services, but 35 percent say it is inconvenient to pay for health care services (a 15 percent increase from 2017)?
Your practice can align with patient preferences and make payments more convenient by:
Accepting and Offering a Variety of Payment Methods
Compared to 2017 data, the number of providers that believe cards on file and automated payment plans will “improve collections overall, reduce days in AR, bed debt and write-offs,” is increasing. This means improved cash flow for your practice with less work involved.
Letting Your Patients Know About All Payment Options Available
Though many providers in the survey note offering a variety of payment options, the majority of patient respondents were unaware of alternative options. For example, only 16 percent of patient respondents said they were offered an automated payment plan, even though 49 percent of provider respondents said they are able to set up automatic payment plans for patients.
Going Paperless With Your Billing Communications
As already stated, 45 percent of patients prefer their bills be sent via email, a patient portal or text message. Despite this, nearly all providers surveyed continue to send paper statements. Offering paperless communication options in combination with a variety of payment method options will likely close the time frame between notification and payment. Paperless communications can include remote signature capture for card-not-present transaction verification as well as email or text receipts and alerts for outstanding bills.
Recommended Patient Portals
HIPAA-compliant patient portals like ChartPerfect's make it easy to manage both your practice's records and customer payments in one secure system. With the advent of HDHPs, patients are becoming increasingly responsible for a larger portion of their health care bill. According to the findings of this study, providing patients with electronic estimates, bills, a secure patient portal, and moreover the ability to accept credit cards will ensure a reduced time in accounts receivable and reduction in patient bad debt. Solutions like ChartPerfect, which couple secure card-not-present payments with cards on file, provide a complete solution to effectively streamline patient payments.
How your practice keeps up with these trends directly relates to the software and equipment you use to process your payments. So the first step to aligning with your patient’s preferences is to evaluate how you currently take payments compared to these recommendations. Once the gaps are distinguished, it’s time to research options for a proper upgrade.
Is your practice still sending paper statements? Does it offer limited payment methods? Tell us how you’ve dealt with these limitations given patient preferences today. You can leave a comment below.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.