Patient Experience

Optimize Patient Payments with a Unified Merchant Services Solution

September 20, 2017 9:11 am

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To boost patient payments, providers need to create payment paths that engage patients through convenience.

Patients’ financial responsibilities are steadily growing and making greater impacts on healthcare organizations’ revenue streams. As a result, many organizations face new challenges in figuring out ways to successfully and cost effectively collect patient payments. Asking patients to pay at least portions of their bills at the time of service is an approach providers use. Although this is one effective strategy, there are many circumstances where this is neither possible nor realistic.

With all these factors, healthcare organizations need to also think about how their patients prefer to pay their bills. Are payment options limited to mailing checks or keying cards into online portals? While these channels and methods work for some patients, they don’t provide the easiest option for everyone. This point is critical because the key to motivating timely patient payment is convenience.

To truly boost patient payments, providers need to create convenient payment paths that engage patients.

Providers can optimize patient payments, shore up revenue, and reduce collection costs by offering multiple payment channels and methods through a unified merchant services platform. Enabling patients to choose how and when they pay will encourage them to not only pay their bills, but to also pay bills on time.

The Retail Experience

Consider all the payment channels and methods available in retail transactions, particularly through an online trailblazer like Amazon. These retailers will receive money in almost any form imaginable. If so inclined, consumers can even turn to their virtual assistant “Alexa” to handle the payment details.

Whether consumers are physically at brick-and-mortar stores, thumbing through paper catalogs, or online using computers or mobile devices, most retailers today accept multiple payment methods including cash, credit cards, debit cards, checks, and eChecks. Consumers can also use these payment methods through a variety of channels, including in-person experiences, mail, phone, or via portals. Progressive retailers like Starbucks and Home Depot even accept payments through PayPal, Apple Pay, and other digital wallets.

The reality is everyone has their payment preferences, and they still range from paying in cash at the point of sale to one-click payments on mobile devices. With “consumerism” rising in healthcare, patients expect their providers to offer the same payment choices and conveniences they experience in retail. Unfortunately, too often patients are still limited in their options.

Are healthcare organizations losing revenue or slowing cash flow by limiting the methods and channels in which patients can pay? Very likely, yes.

Beyond Checks and Portals

With multiple payment channels and methods available, healthcare organizations must take advantage of every opportunity to collect from patients. They need to offer all payment methods and channels consumers are accustomed to using in their everyday lives and retail experiences—before service, at point of care, and after service.

So why doesn’t it happen? The truth is that managing multiple merchant services and vendors is cumbersome. It requires identifying, selecting, negotiating with, and managing various vendors and choosing which consumer payment applications to offer. To add to the complexities, each payment channel and method has its own set of processes and requirements. Moreover, it can be challenging to find vendors focused specifically on healthcare and with knowledge of the industry’s nuances, which is of the utmost importance.

A Unified Solution

By onboarding a multi-channel, multi-method unified solution, healthcare organizations can simplify and streamline their merchant services, automate billing and collections, and reduce costs—all while giving patients options to improve their financial experiences.

Organizations should consider the following key features when searching for a unified merchant services vendor.

Does it allow patients to pay using their preferred method? Individual consumers have definite preferences when it comes to how they pay their bills, but preferences vary and often depend on familiarity and comfort levels with specific methods. Organizations should accept payments in multiple forms, so patients have options that are convenient for them, whether cash, checks, eChecks, credit cards, debit cards, or online wallets.

Does it allow patients to pay through their preferred channel? Likewise, payment channel preferences vary and options need to be available to promote timely payments. For example, tech-savvy consumers may prefer paying online or via one-click options on mobile apps. Others who aren’t as comfortable using various technologies—or might not trust them—may prefer to mail checks or pay over the phone through call centers.

Does it drive patients to their preferred payment experience? Offering a multitude of payment channels and methods isn’t enough: Providers need to guide patients to their preferred experiences. Finding solutions that feature personalized communications will ensure patients stay informed of their options and know how to use them. In the end, patients are more likely to pay their bills when they exert less effort to do so.

Does it include or integrate with key security solutions? Mega security breaches last year at Target and more recently at Equifax are making headlines and consumers are noticing. Healthcare organizations must ensure patients’ personal and financial data remain safe during transactions. This amplifies the need to choose merchant services solutions that integrate with key security features such as Europay, Mastercard, and Visa (EMV) global standard and point-to-point encryptions (P2PE).

With the continual rise of the $338.1 billion in out-of-pocket expenses on the line annually, healthcare organizations must be diligent and forward-thinking. They need to seize every opportunity to collect from patients in ways that are both efficient and cost-effective, ensuring no money falls through the cracks. By using a unified merchant services approach, healthcare organizations can give patients the ability to pay how they want, where they want, and when they want—opening opportunities to optimize revenue streams and cash flow in the process.

Arkady Fridman is director, consumer payment solutions, Change Healthcare.

Ally Chastain is ADP associate – consumer payments, Change Healthcare


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