Today, patient pay services are more important than ever, especially as hospitals strive to recover financially from the pandemic. Median hospital operating margins came in at 2.5% year-to-date in November 2020 with the CARES Act funds and -1.1% without them, according to recent Kaufman Hall data. Meanwhile, patients have also been impacted by the economic fallout from COVID-19. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 1 in 4 adults have had trouble paying their bills since the coronavirus outbreak started.

However, a patient’s income level should not prevent them from achieving positive health outcomes. At the same time, healthcare providers need a steady revenue stream to continue serving their communities. To boost patient collections and offer better financial care for patients, prioritize these 5 patient pay solutions in 2021 and beyond. 

1. Clear Communication About Costs, Before & After Treatment 

Upfront Price Estimates Before Care

Contact patients before they receive care with upfront price estimates. Patientco’s technology sends appointment reminders with integrated price estimates. Our communication explains what patients owe and why they owe that amount. We send this information to patients through channels they prefer, including through email or text message, using empathetic, easy-to-understand language. Tackling price transparency with personalized, upfront price estimates inspires trust with patients. This approach also helps patients plan for their medical expenses. 

Why Upfront Price Estimates Matter

Cost concerns are patients’ number one barrier to accessing care. In our 2020 State of the Patient Financial Experience survey report, 45% of patients said they have avoided medical care over concerns about their out-of-pocket costs. Yet, nearly 70% of patients who have received an upfront price estimate said the estimate influenced their decision to move forward with treatment. In other words, pre-service price estimates can help alleviate patients’ cost concerns so they don’t delay or skip care. By providing a price estimate upfront, along with affordable, self-service payment options, health systems can prevent no-shows and cancellations that stem from a patient’s cost concerns. 

A Single, Simplified Bill After Care

Health systems should offer a single, simplified bill for patients after they receive care. Even if your organization has multiple EHR systems, or your hospital and physician groups bill in silos, Patientco makes it possible to send one bill to the patient that provides a centralized view of their payment responsibility. 

In addition to consolidating multiple bills across an episode of care, ensure patients can understand their bill. Translate billing jargon into patient-friendly language, break down charges, insurance adjustments and highlight any previous payments. These best practices make it easier and more intuitive for patients to understand their bill and pay what is owed. 

Why Simplified Billing Matters

Medical bills are a source of stress and frustration for many patients. Confusing medical billing codes make it hard for patients to understand what they’re being charged for. Many patients receive 2 or more bills after a single healthcare visit.Plus, many patients receive multiple billing statements for a single healthcare visit.

Our 2020 State of the Patient Financial Experience survey revealed that 1 in 3 patients received 2-3 bills the last time they visited their healthcare provider. When patients receive multiple bills for a single visit, they often have questions and concerns about their charges.

For health systems, simplified billing communication reduces patient call volume related to billing inquiries and ensures patients can easily understand their financial responsibility without assistance from a team member. One of our clients, Great River Health System, reduced monthly call volume by more than 60% after going live with Patientco’s easy-to-understand billing communication.  

2. Flexible, Self-Service Payment Arrangements 

Affordable, Self-Service Pay Options at All Stages of the Patient Journey

To offer compassionate financial care for patients facing economic uncertainties, gently address their affordability concerns with self-service enrollment in flexible payment options at every stage of the patient’s journey. In short, make sure patients can sign up for flexible payment options either before or after treatment. 

Here’s how this process works before care: once a patient reviews their digital price estimate, they can access affordable, self-service payment options right from their estimate. For example, patients can go online and sign up for a payment plan with monthly payments that work for their unique financial situation. They can do all of this right from their smartphone, tablet or any connected device they used to view their estimate. This approach can help your organization accelerate cash flow by collecting more patient payments before treatment.

After care, patients can also access self-service affordable payment options right from their bill. Keep in mind that what works for one patient, may not work for another so offer multiple patient pay solutions, including:

  • Payment Plans
  • Financing Programs
  • Scheduled Payments

Patientco can support other patient pay solutions as well, depending on what works best for your health system and patient population. 

Why Affordable, Self-Service Pay Options Matter

Patients are willing to switch healthcare providers for more affordable payment options.Flexible payment options help health systems collect payments without putting the patient and their budget in a bind. As a result, health systems can build trust and maintain patient loyalty. Patientco’s 2020 State of the Patient Financial Experience survey report validates this. Over 1 in 4 patients said they were willing to switch providers to access more affordable payment options, even if it was inconvenient.

Offering affordable payment options before care helps ensure patients keep their scheduled appointment with your health system. Likewise, it means they’ll be more likely to return for their future care needs as well.

3. Card-on-File Payment Agreements

Card-on-File: A Patient-Friendly Payment Solution 

Urgent care, ambulatory primary care physicians and specialists’ offices have historically used card-on-file payment agreements for collecting patient copays and deductibles. But today, large enterprise health systems have an opportunity to use card-on-file agreements to support compassionate financial conversations with patients upfront.

Whether at pre-service or point-of-service, a card-on-file feature encourages payment agreements between patients and providers. Patients simply commit to pay up to a certain dollar amount or sign up for a payment plan using a specified payment method. Patientco’s card-on-file functionality is unique because we can help identify the appropriate payment agreements and set up business rules that align to your organization’s financial policies. For instance, business rules can be enacted that require patients to pay a percentage of their estimated costs prior to service.

Why Card-on-File Payment Agreements Matter

Additionally, a recent HIMSS Analytics survey proves that patients are more than willing to use card-on-file agreements. Survey responses revealed that over 75% of patients would allow a healthcare organization to charge a credit card provided at the time of service for medical charges up to $200. With a card-on-file pay solution, patients know what they will owe and commit to paying upfront so that they don’t have to worry about a large, confusing bill later. For health systems, this helps accelerate cash flow by collecting more patient payments earlier.

4. Online & Mobile-Friendly Patient Pay Services

A Convenient, Modern Payment Experience Fit for Any Device

It’s just good business to offer your patients various self-service options for paying their medical bills. There are a range of patient pay services to consider, including financing, payment plans, prompt payment discounts, scheduled payments and more. But keep in mind, making a payment should be fast and frictionless no matter what device the patient uses. Completing a payment on a smartphone should be as easy as it is on a desktop computer and vice versa.

Why Online & Mobile Payments Matter

By providing a more convenient, intuitive patient payment experience, health systems increase their self-service payment rates. Additionally, self-service patient pay services allow patients to complete a payment at any time, even outside of business hours, which helps improve overall collections. The value of Patientco’s online and mobile-friendly payment tools has proven impactful for our clients, especially for Inspira Health. Today, 90% of Inspira’s hospital payments are self-service and more than half of those payments are made online through the Patientco® PatientWallet. These payments require no intervention from Inspira’s team members. 

5. Contactless Payments

Contactless Patient Pay SolutionsHow text-to-pay works

In addition to online and mobile-friendly payment tools, today’s patients expect contactless payment options. Patientco® Text-to-Pay addresses these expectations, serving as a convenient, secure contactless payment method that health systems can offer their patients. With Text-to-Pay, providers send a payment request via SMS text to a patient in real time. Then, the patient clicks on a secure link to make a payment directly from their smartphone.

Text-to-Pay eliminates the need for shared hardware devices and ensures PCI compliance, making it an ideal solution for telehealth visits, remote working environments, office visits, COVID-19 testing sites and more.

Why Contactless Payment Options Matter 

Within the first few weeks of rolling out our latest contactless payment option, Text-to-Pay, Patientco processed more than $2 million in payments with an approximate conversion rate of 80% across nearly 7,500 patients.

Our health system clients have found the feature useful for both their point-of-service and back-office teams. For example, one Virginia-based health system uses Text-to-Pay at point-of-service for its check-in process, where patients check in from their car to maintain social distancing during COVID-19. Patients have to call before entering the facility and with Text-to-Pay, patients can easily pay their copay or balance on their smartphone from the car, which streamlines the check-in process.

For another health system’s back-office team, Text-to-Pay has made it easier to collect patient balances when following up with patients over the phone. Before, team members had to ask patients to share their credit card information aloud on the phone to process a payment. However, with Text-to-Pay, patients can complete a payment on their own device, assuring greater peace of mind about the privacy and security of their payment information. 

Upgrade Your Patient Pay Services in 2021

With the right patient pay solutions, your health system can simultaneously improve the patient experience and boost collections, positioning your organization to continue giving patients the care they need. 

To discover how upgrading your patient pay services can help both your organization and patient population, schedule a brief consultation with one of our payment experts.