A Guide to Processing Patient Payments in Your Sleep

By Patrick Creagh, Patientco Marketingshutterstock_102460022

Are you processing patient revenue while you sleep? If not, you may be missing a big opportunity!

With nearly 25% of revenues coming from patient out-of-pocket costs (and rising), providers cannot afford to write off large amounts of patient bad debt any more. As a result, physicians are scrambling to reform their patient payment processes in an effort to capture more of these increasing deductibles. One step to preventing patient payments from slipping through the cracks is to offer multiple consumer-friendly payment options before, during and after an episode of care.

Our research shows that increasing numbers of patients prefer to pay their bills outside of regular business hours. This makes sense, as people tend to be working during business hours. However, providers who do not offer a payment option that doesn’t require staff assistance may face delays or even defaults as fewer and fewer patients utilize their checkbooks to mail in a payment.

The solution then, is to offer automated payment options as part of your patient financial engagement strategy.

No Action Required

The best part about automated payment options is that they require no staff action to process, deposit, and post patient transactions. Not only do these payments increase your patient revenue by offering patients convenient payment methods, they increase your business office efficiency by not requiring staff action.

One physician group we work with serves over 70,000 patients per year and processes over $100k of patient revenue per month automatically, without any staff effort. This efficiency ensures that their central business office can focus on the most important accounts and patients who have questions about their bill. For this particular client, 3 out of every 10 payments are made outside of traditional business hours using automated payment options. So what automated options should you offer?

Automated Payment Plans

Best-in-class payment plans automatically charge a specified amount every month to a patient’s credit card once the plan is approved by that patient. As long as the credit card information is stored securely on an encrypted platform, neither the patient nor provider needs to take further action to process the monthly payments until the account is resolved. Instead, the patient can be sent an automatic reminder of the monthly charge and can contact the provider if the financial details change during the period of the plan.

Online Payment Portal

An online payment portal allows patients to make a payment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Having a user-friendly portal can not only boost revenue by offering 24/7 convenience, it can also speed up question and dispute resolution if it includes a secure messaging function to ask about an outstanding bill. Instead of waiting to call during business hours and then waiting while a billing office staff member puts them on hold to look up their information, secure messaging enables the patient to contact the provider on his or her own time and receive a response when the provider has pulled all the relevant information instead of putting that patient on hold.

IVR (Automated Phone Payment)

While the bulk of fully automated payments are made through online portals, there is a sizable population of patients who prefer to use a phone to make payments outside of business hours. Because this technology preceded modern payment platforms, we’ve found that it appeals to senior citizens (who tend to be most familiar with it due to it’s use for prescription refills).

Even if only 3-5% of your payments come through an automated phone line, this is still a significant amount of revenue that may not otherwise be collected. An IVR function also helps unclog your phone lines during business hours so that staff can focus on the exceptions.

Don’t Make Them Wait

If you are unable to collect payment at the point of service, don’t make your patients wait until they are available during your business hours to make a payment. Offer them 24/7 convenient payment options and watch your A/R days decrease as your patients make payments while you sleep.

Heading to HFMA’s 2016  ANI Conference? Schedule a demo to learn how Patientco can help you increase patient revenue and process patient payments more efficiently.