The movement to self-service patient payments

Everyone knows health care prices can be confusing, so why not make it easy for patients to pay their medical bills? This need for convenience and clarity in patient billing is driving more hospitals to adopt self-service patient payments. For instance, physician practices have installed self-service payment kiosks in the businesses’ common areas to encourage patients to pay part of what they owe when they come into the practice for care. Yet hospitals and medical centers have other self-service payment options that they can introduce to patients, such as accessible, secure tablets in front lobbies and online payment platforms. As the health care industry embraces emerging technology, electronic bill presentment may no longer be just another patient billing option – but the main choice.

Embracing easy-to-use payment processing
Many hospitals know they must offer an electronic payment option for patients in order to remain successful in today’s consumer driven health care environment. Increasing revenue by providing a great patient experience is a core focus of health systems, yet hospital finance executives may notice not many patients choose to send in paper checks or cash through the mail to pay for their medical services anymore. According to the Healthcare Finance Management Association (HFMA), mailed statements don’t provide a significant return on investment for hospitals. If anything, the traditional patient billing method merely reminds patients to pay their bills online or to make a payment at the hospital or physician practice the next time they receive care. For finance officers to boost patient collections, they need to get on board with self-service patient payments and empower consumers online instead of pestering them through the mail.

CFOs and hospital administrators need to realize a great solution to their low patient compensation worries is online payment adoption and other self-service payment options. Many hospital executives believe patients won’t use self-service technology, when handling paper forms is often more cumbersome for patients than electronic billing and payment.

Some hospital executives may still be holding out that the health care industry will return to its pre-consumer days because they are entrenched in old school methods that worked when patients were simply people who needed treatment and hospitals didn’t need to fight for patients’ loyalty and trust. Yet consumer-driven health care is here to stay. A 1991 essay in Health Affairs by health care professionals even noted that the change to thinking about patients as consumers was inevitable. Consumer friendly billing has been on its way for over 20 years, and it is time for hospitals to let go of their traditional patient billing processes and commit to self-service patient payments.

Yet health systems cannot simply expect to receive a quick adoption of self-service payments. There are numerous factors that go into the success of the payment initiative that hospitals must take into account. Health care executives need to understand the entire patient experience if they want to improve collections. Hospitals need to remember that the patient-provider relationship impacts patient payments and that patients value having numerous payment platforms. It is not enough for hospitals to simply adopt electronic payments – they must encourage patients to use these platforms and provide them with alternative payment options according to their preferences.

Just because hospitals make it easier for patients to pay their bills doesn’t mean that is all health systems need to do. Stern noted hospitals must remain connected with patients in order to receive adequate payments. Electronic bill presentment makes it easier for patients to understand their personal cost responsibilities and to pay their bills in a timely manner, but hospitals still need to encourage patients to utilize online payment platforms and the medical center’s self-service options.