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Posted November 3, 2015

healthcare payments

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It would be redundant to say that the paper-packed shuffle of managing healthcare finances is overwhelming to most consumers. When statements, bills, EOBs, and other often hard-to-comprehend documents line the mailbox and land in stacks around the house…if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times. Suffice it to say, there’s a promising alternative gaining speed: mobile technology is making it easier for patients to pay their medical bills.

Mobile: A Step in the Right Direction

Over the past several years, healthcare organizations have been getting more tech-savvy. Spurred along by both healthcare reform requirements and customer/patient preferences, providers and other industry players are using more electronic and web-based tools in their day-to-day operations. They have also been launching initiatives to improve patient satisfaction and quality measures—two areas in which technology and service go hand-in-hand.

It’s no surprise that the healthcare payments network, InstaMed, has seen a strong adoption of mobile payments year over year. An article on HealthcareFinanceNews shares that in 2015, close to 20% of InstaMed’s consumer payments were coming from a mobile device when, in 2011, they made up just 2% of consumer payments. What is behind this increase, and why is it expected to continue rising? Here are three reasons:

1. Consumerism is Key

This megatrend has been a centerpiece in healthcare reform, from plan design to payments. In order to engage people in the management of their healthcare, industry organizations have been working hard to rise to consumer expectations. In payments, that means mirroring their experience in other industries: making payments simple, convenient, secure.

InstaMed’s 2014 Trends in Healthcare Payments reveals 91% of consumers indicated that payers should allow them to make their payments in any way they choose. And it doesn’t have to include a stop at yet another desk, as patients can make a payments at their bedside during discharge, or on their tablet while they’re paying the household bills.

2. Healthcare Finance Needs a Lift

It comes down to the bottom line: healthcare organizations under pressure to reduce operating costs and they need to receive more payments. After all, providers today are more dependent on patient dollars. Consumers have more payment responsibility than ever before, so the payment process better be easier than yesteryear’s—especially as more people enter the healthcare system and start accumulating medical bills.

Considering that InstaMed’s survey reveals 7 in 10 providers said it took more than one month to collect in 2014, it’s easy to see how instant and electronic mobile payments can speed up the process. That means the avoidance of many collection issues and less bad debt, not to mention the cost-savings associated with a shift to paperless processing.

What’s more, when patients have a more convenient way to manage payments, there’s less staff required to answer basic questions. Office workers can focus less on chasing people down for payments, and put more energy into providing higher-impact customer service.

3. Technology Moves Full Speed Ahead

At the end of the day, mobile technology is simply happening. The capabilities are being improved and adopted across consumer and B2B payment channels. It’s no longer a question of whether or not mobile payments will make their way into the healthcare industry—they’re already there—it’s a question of finding the best way to leverage the technology with the resources at hand.

Mobile wallet providers are ready to do their part. According to CIO.com’s How Apple Pay is Streamlining Healthcare Payments, InstaMed has recently given providers the option to collect copays via NFC-enabled contactless mobile payments. (For additional insights into high-tech innovations, see The Rise of Biometrics in Healthcare, Finance, and Payments.)

Joining the Mobile Revolution

As J.P, Morgan explains in Key Trends in Healthcare Patient Payments, “payment processing optimization” has been on the radar since the earliest days of the modern reform movement. They say healthcare providers and their payment processing partners should share the common goal of enabling patients to pay at any point in the revenue cycle, via any payment type, and through any payment outlet.

But managing multiple payment channels can be painstaking, as can making the move from paper to electronic processing. The healthcare payments system is generally fragmented, disjointed, and riddled with inefficiencies. Plus, alternative payment methods like mobile continue to raise concerns about security and risk. Embarking on a mobile strategy isn’t simple—but the marketplace is buzzing with solutions and advice for healthcare organizations ready to explore mobile payments.

A Deloitte article in the Wall Street Journal Mobile Health Care Payments: A Win for Patients, Providers suggests that before taking the plunge into mobile, healthcare providers should consider the technology acumen of their patients, the change capabilities present at their organization, and the importance of laying out a road map for implementing an enterprise patient payment solution. In other words, make sure customers and employees are on board with a solid plan “go mobile.”

Visit the Corporate Payments Insights blog for more coverage on mobile technology and healthcare payments. For a closer look at insurance billing and payments, read Tomorrow’s Healthcare Payments, Part 1: Understanding Today’s Limitations and Tomorrow’s Healthcare Payments, Part 2: Exploring New Forms of Automation

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