The recent flurry of acquisitions of physicians by hospitals and health systems is a sign that doctors are beginning to rely on the scalable technological infrastructure of these larger organizations. One piece of this infrastructure is patient billing, with acquired practices often taking on the same billing system as their parent system. Practices that choose to stand alone, however,must meet the challenging task of finding cost-effective ways to address their billing technology needs.
While processing patient payments is a challenge facing all healthcare providers, small practices may have it the hardest. A recent MGMA survey of practices says that 25% of a patient’s final bill consists of out-of-pocket costs, only a fraction of which are ultimately collected before practices send the accounts to collections or write off as bad debt. Small practices often lack the financial or human resources to follow up with patients to try and collect forgotten copays or out-of-pocket patient A/R. They often lack the sophisticated technology that hospitals and IDNs use to prioritize accounts and maximize their efforts.
Accepting Patient Payments at the Point of Service
As a result of increased patient financial responsibility in the form of rising deductibles and coinsurance, practices are beginning to change their billing procedures to include requesting payment at the time of service. Proactive collection efforts increase the likelihood of a balance being paid, but to do this providers must be able to process payments at patient access.
To address this challenge, some providers use a payments function within their EHR/PM system, often bolted on as one of many features. While this can save practices money in the short-run, EHR/PM systems payments functionality lacks the ability to aggregate payment from multiple channels (cash, payment plans, HSA/FSA cards, etc). This costs the practice more time and money on the back end as the must manually reconcile patient payments and post them back to the original system.
In addition to manually reconciling and posting payments, accepting patient payments requires practices to sign a separate processing contract with a payments company. Because payment processing is a complex business all on its own, many practice administrators simply aren’t prepared to effectively negotiate rates or identify predatory clauses that are all too common in processing contracts. Perhaps most importantly, relying on multiple vendors to process payments multiplies the risk of being unable to accept payment if one of them experiences downtime or an outage.
Enterprise-caliber Solutions For a Small Business Price
When describing cloud-based software, we often point out the advantages of being able to scale the numbers of users and locations without the provider having to add additional physical servers. That said, scalability is usually not an issue for small practices; those providers are looking for efficiency and value.
The good news is that because of the low overhead costs associated with cloud-based software, vendors can charge similar rates at scale no matter the provider’s size. In fact, by not requiring a lengthy implementation process and physical hardware, smaller businesses can leverage this technology for even less than a large health system. The advantages of course are still the same: card-on-file technology, flexible payment plans, EMV-compliant payment processing at the point of service, and HIPAA/PCI compliant security.
A Cloud-based Bundle for Patient Payments
Patientco is unique because we’ve bundled these functions into a single cloud-based platform along with flat-rate payment processing. Our core product enables small practices and large health systems to accept POS payments using any payment method and payments are automatically reconciled and posted back into the EHR/PM system. Small providers are saved the challenge of negotiating complex processing contracts while being able to offer multiple convenient payment methods at the point of service, including payment plans.
By investing in a POS payments platform, practices can bundle their essential payments functions together so that they don’t have to manually consolidate payments from separate channels later on, all while offering the modernized payment experience patients have come to expect.