By Patrick Creagh, Marketing Specialist
Some say the best part of graduating college is the freedom that comes with it. My own graduation from Georgia Tech was not too long ago, and I’ll never forget feeling so excited to embrace the real world with my new degree.
Inevitably, with this newfound freedom came more responsibility. My first job came with my first apartment, and my first apartment came with my first rent payment, my first electricity bill, my first water bill, and of course my own insurance and medical bills. For the first time in my life, I was responsible for at least 7 recurring payments, all paid to different parties. The days of going to Georgia Tech’s website and making one simple payment for tuition, food, housing, and health were over.
As a millennial, I was not short on experience paying for things online. I regularly purchase tickets, music, electronics, and just about everything short of food on the Internet. I’ve booked plane tickets, scheduled appointments, and even paid back friends using online payment tools. In fact, now I do most of these things on my smartphone. So naturally, I thought I would be able to pay my new “grown-up” bills quickly and easily online.
My rent payment was relatively simple. Following a 5-minute account setup, I was able to schedule a recurring payment from my bank account to the leasing office. Done.
Electricity was the same- created an online account, set up a recurring payment to Georgia Power. I even received an email reminding me about the automatic transfer.
My car insurance was a bit tougher, given the online portal would not allow me to set up a recurring payment. I was frustrated, but at least I could pay quickly online every month.
Finally, there were my medical bills. I recently went in for my annual physical, a quick and straightforward checkup, and per my new insurance plan, I paid my co-pay and assumed all was well. This is where things got complicated.
Little did I know (because I was not informed by the administrators) that the practice charged a $20 fee for changing my insurance information. Perfectly reasonable I guess. However, because I was not told this during checkout, they mailed a statement to me two weeks later instead of collecting the fee at the point of service. The statement was mailed to my parents’ house, where it began to collect dust because my parents don’t read my mail. A few weeks later, I got a call from my mom. She had received a second statement, which she opened due to the URGENT printed on the front. I found out that I was on the verge of being sent to collections for a fee I didn’t even know about.
Wanting to resolve the situation quickly, I looked over the bill to find out where I could go to pay online. There was no website listed. So I Googled the doctor’s office to find there website thinking surely they would have a “pay my bill” button, but no luck. After brief confusion, I realized that I would have to mail in a payment, something I had never done before (nor have most in my generation). I have a checkbook the bank sent me when I opened my account, but I had written less than 5 checks in my life. It took a trip back home with a stop at the post office to get my payment out and hope that it made it to my provider in time. Compared to paying my other bills, I felt like I had traveled back in time.
In my work here at Patientco, I have learned that many hospitals and practices see online bill pay portals as a luxury feature or a “nice to have.” After all, insurance has traditionally covered most of the revenue and patients have traditionally preferred to pay by phone or check. However, it’s 2014 and online payment is a way of life, not just for the youth. For someone my age, online bill pay is the difference between a timely payment and a late one. For others I know, it determines whether they pay at all. Your hospital’s online bill pay is a direct line to your future patient revenue and therefore, can’t just exist; it must be simple and move the patient through the payment process quickly and efficiently like retail industry standards such as Amazon, eBay, Zappos, Ticketmaster and the like who have set the bar for online payments.
I love working in this industry because I believe that I can help providers better understand my generation and implement the tools that will benefit me and other patients like me, while improving their own revenue, which will make the world a little bit better for all of us.