From the blog Payment Processing For Healthcare

Optimizing Patient Payment Acceptance for Healthcare Practitioners Improves the Bottom-Line

For many healthcare practitioners, collecting patient payments presents a constant challenge. But with an understanding of the problem, and with the application of the proper tools, healthcare practitioners can implement streamlined payment acceptance practices that better sustain the business.

Many Facilities Leave Money on the Table in Billing

According to a study from global management firm McKinsey & Company, healthcare providers typically expect to collect only between 50 percent and 70 percent of a patient balance following a visit. What is collected comes in slowly: 70 percent of providers report that it takes on average a month or longer to collect. If turned over to a collections company, providers receive a mere $15.77 of every $100 owed. When it is easy for a patient to pay, providers can expect quicker and more complete payment. Therefore, it is important for providers to ensure they have the means to collect the patient’s portion of their payment responsibilities.

Optimized (and Profitable) Patient Payments

As a general rule, the more convenient the payment capabilities, the greater the odds that the provider will receive full payment for the services rendered. With proper application, an omnichannel patient payment system can fit the bill as a fully optimized, cost-effective solution to address payment needs and ease reconciliation.

An optimized patient payment solution allows for:

  • Card on File (COF) — As the patient’s portion of the payment becomes larger, healthcare practitioners find it more critical to capture the patient’s payment method at check-in. A complete patient payment system must allow for the safe, secure capture of the patient’s credit card or checking account information so that all uncovered medical costs can be billed to and reliably collected from the patient, while also allowing for rapid processing of in-person co-pays and deductibles. With a COF solution, healthcare practitioners can expect to see a significant decrease in uncollected patient payments over time.
  • Web payment self-service —Enabling patients to easily pay online on the healthcare practitioner’s website is important. This has become an expected payment channel, but it does not need to be a costly investment. A comprehensive patient payment system should provide an easy, low-cost web payment capability that is integrated into the overall payment system.
  • Phone and mail-in payments — Remittance payments can still be easily collected via a virtual terminal with immediate payment processing and electronic receipts instantly emailed directly from an employee’s desk to the patient in a secure manner. This method allows for less rework, maximizing staff efficiency, and is more secure than writing down a patient’s payment account information for processing later. This virtual terminal capability should be part of the overall patient payment system reporting to ease patient account reconciliation.
  • In-house payment plans — As an option for large outstanding balances, practitioners should have the flexibility to set up in-house payment plans in the form of recurring payments within the payment systems. Collecting smaller amounts over several months ensures payment while at the same time offering the patient a more pleasant solution than turning them over to a collections agency, or a costly third-party financing company.
  • Insurance carrier payments — More and more insurance carriers are paying healthcare providers with credit/purchase cards. These large dollar payments can be costly to accept for a practice/hospital. A complete payment system should provide for a specialized plug-in designated to handle payments from insurance carriers that can cut down on processing fees by as much as 40%.
  • Validating patient obligation– Healthcare and payment software providers have been working to integrate tools to confirm the patients’ insurance obligations. These estimation tools appear to be improving in accuracy and insurance provider participation. While these estimation tools are costly, the ability to capture a large percentage, if not all of the patient’s obligation for payment, during the patient’s visit can greatly reduce outstanding receivables and write-offs.

Key Benefits of an Optimized Patient Payment Solution

Choosing the correct and most efficient patient payment solution for the practice or hospital will inevitably provide added, trickle-down value. The key benefits include:

  • Improves cash flow – Increasing the flow of patient payments directly results in a decrease in the receivables that are weighing down your accounting and decreasing profitability.
  • Eliminating time spent reconciling payments – The payment system should provide comprehensive reporting, meaning your staff no longer needs to toil over reconciling patient payments.
  • Increased security and compliance – An optimized solution will address regulatory s and provide peace of mind that your business is and will remain compliant and secure.
  • Increases staff efficiency – With more means of accepting payments you can remove congestion competing for the availability of a handful of old payment terminals, meaning fewer people are forced to waste time waiting to process a payment.

Finding the Patient Payment Solution That Meets Your Needs

Collecting payments is a necessary component of any practice or hospital. With the right tools, it does not have to be particularly onerous, or inefficient. If your practice is still using an outdated, low-feature payment system, now is the time to explore better alternatives.

If you are uncertain whether your business has the most optimized patient payment solution, seek assistance from a knowledgeable advocate. Risk and the potential for higher payment processing fees vary broadly from industry to industry. Likewise, it is important to have a complete diligent review of the contract terms of the payment processing providers to avoid unnecessary costs and even punitive penalties. Partnering with an advocate who has experience with healthcare payments who can help to identify these risks and provide a tailored and cost-effective solution will go a long way in establishing an efficient patient payment acceptance solution for your business

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