Medical bills can be a headache for both patients and providers. Luckily, the right health payment systems and patient payment plans can help mitigate some of that headache. People who have recently been to the emergency room, urgent care center, or even a scheduled doctor visit are likely facing a medical bill.
The number of uninsured Americans is growing due to high deductible healthcare plans and increasing out-of-pocket costs. Patients continue to struggle to afford care. In fact, 54% of Americans reported having delayed or avoided care due to cost. Even patients with health coverage have trouble paying unexpected bills that are not covered by insurance.
Many patients end up wondering how to pay their medical bills. In most provider organizations, patient payment plans are available for people who can’t afford to pay the entire bill upfront. Payment plans are beneficial for both the patient and the provider.
For healthcare organizations to increase their chances of collecting a payment, they need to offer better payment options for patients of all financial backgrounds. Customized payment plans help close the gap between what patients can afford and their bills—while also mitigating the risk of non-payment. In short, payment plans are beneficial for patients and the bottom line of a healthcare organization.
The Rise of Patient Payment Plans
High deductible health plans (HDHPs) allow patients to open and contribute to a savings and investment account for future healthcare costs. 52.9% of American workers covered by private health insurance through their employer were enrolled in high-deductible health plans in 2020. That’s up moderately from 50.5% in 2019 and substantially from 39.4% in 2015. Due to hidden costs, there may be better choices than high-deductible health plans, despite their rise in popularity.
Healthcare providers can use consumer-centric strategies like automated billing systems and health payment systems to ensure payment collection.
Healthcare payment plans alleviate the financial burden on patients. This improves patient engagement and as a result, has an impact on the way patients engage with their provider long-term. According to recent patient engagement data, a patient’s overall satisfaction is directly correlated to their financial experience. Payment plans are an innovative yet proven way to improve that experience. If an individual has a positive patient financial experience, they are five times more likely to recommend their provider to their loved ones. Furthermore, most patients–around 90%–claim that positive financial experience would be a deciding factor in returning to the provider.
In Idaho, Bingham Memorial Hospital pivoted its patient financial engagement strategy to adopt a new patient payment platform. This platform helped collect outstanding balances in a single view at point-of-service and could integrate with their existing EHR. By integrating patient payment plans with automated billing systems, the hospital was able to take control of its revenue cycle.
“We’ve gone from a very manual, error-prone process to one that seamlessly integrates with our EMR, allowing us to cut down on the time it takes staff to process and balance payments,” the Director of Finance at Bingham Memorial Hospital said. “Patients also have appreciated the intuitive online payment portal to check on their balances, apply discounts, and make payments on their account.”
The lower the out-of-pocket costs, the more likely patients are to either pay directly after service or when they received their bill. Providers need to encourage patient ownership of financial obligations. This includes transparency of healthcare costs as patients factor those into all other financial obligations. In fact, 41% of patients using payment plans report doing so to budget their healthcare costs in relation to their other financial obligations.
Medical bills can be confusing to patients. Bills can often be vague about what patients owe, how to pay, and when balances are due. Most healthcare organizations are not prepared to accept electronic or credit card payments. A survey found the following:
- 35% of providers keep a patient’s credit card filed in their payment system.
- 50% of the survey participants stated that their organization automates payment plans.
- 57% reported that they did not send electronic statements to patients.
There is often uncertainty surrounding options available to patients as well. For example, 64% of Americans reported being unsure whether or not their providers offered payment plans or financial assistance. As many as 80% of uninsured patients were unaware of the existence of those financial resources in general.
Implementing Payment Plans Can Increase Revenue
Evidence continuously proves that giving consumers choices can influence product choice and consumer happiness—regardless of price. Most patients want to resolve their healthcare bills, and patient-friendly, interest-free payment plans allow more patients to do so.
Revenue cycle leaders say that offering interest-free payment plans is about doing the right thing for patients. Healthcare payment plans are patient-focused and enable patients to manage their increasing out-of-pocket costs, while also providing a solution for the organization’s bottom line.
Payment plans are in high demand with patients. Ninety percent of healthcare consumers participating in a 2017 survey said that they were more likely to return to a provider who offered medical bill payment plans to encourage patient financial responsibility.
A Northeast Texas healthcare organization, Hunt Regional Healthcare, needed to reduce the cost-to-collect on the back-end and streamline point-of-service collections via online payments, payment plans, and prior balance collections. They changed their patient payment platform to one that could seamlessly integrate with Meditech and PayNav to enable Hunt Regional’s staff to onboard patients more easily and experience successful results in just one month. Their new patient payment platform gave patients access to many self-service features including making scheduled online payments to payment plans. The result?
In the first year, they set up 465 patient payment plans which totaled $520,000. Every month they added approximately 42 patient payment plans with the average balance around $1,089 per patient. In just one year, Hunt Regional Healthcare collected $133,129 through patient payment plans alone.
According to a recent study, cost-effective care, flexible appointments, telehealth, and enhanced patient engagement and loyalty can significantly improve access to needed care. Leaning into the problem of payment collection—and offering solutions patients like—is essential for financial viability and revenue cycle management. Implementing innovative automated billing systems with health payment systems could be a solution for patient happiness and your organization’s bottom line.
Patient Loyalty and Engagement
The ability to increase patient engagement and loyalty is a key factor in addressing payment problems. Making sure patients feel they are in control of their care is a surefire way to keep them coming back for services at your healthcare organization.
The consumerization of healthcare has led to patients recognizing greater responsibility for payment, which means greater expectations from patients. Patients are more likely to pay their bills if they are engaged with their own care and feel that they are receiving clear, consistent communication from their providers.
By offering an easy-to-understand, patient-focused financial experience, your organization’s patients can avoid the headache of receiving bills by mail weeks after their treatment. Patients aware of their financial obligations before treatment are typically more comfortable with meeting those obligations—leading to greater payment volume and timely payments for your revenue cycle.
By treating patients as partners in their own care, healthcare organizations can see an increase in patient payments. A positive, proactive approach to obtaining payment results leads to engaged patients who are loyal to their healthcare providers. Automated billing systems and health payment systems can make engaging patients a breeze.
HealthPay24 as a Bottom-Line Solution
In just one decade, high-deductible health plans with health savings accounts increased from 4.2% to 18.9% among adults ages 18-64. The reality is that this type of coverage often leads to situations where patients are unable to pay their medical bills out of pocket. This phenomenon has led many healthcare organizations to think outside the box when it comes to increasing revenue.
What do Bingham Memorial Hospital and Hunt Regional Healthcare have in common? They both switched to the HealthPay24 patient payment solution to streamline payments and improve access and integration of patient payment plans. 64% of patients want flexible payment plans that make sense for their needs. The HealthPay24 patient payment platform stands out from other healthcare automated billing systems because it was created with this flexibility in mind.
HealthPay24 supports customizable payment plans to allow patients to pay medical bills through automatic scheduled payments. These payments can be scheduled directly in the patient portal and patients and/or guarantors can elect the monthly amount of the payment and the length of the plan based on guidelines set by the provider.
Additional features that providers can elect when setting up patient payment plans within the HealthPay24 provider portal include:
- No Interest on Payment Plans
- Discounts for “Pay-in-Full”
- Customizing the Length and Amounts Allowed for Payment Plans
- Extending Payment Plan Start Dates
HealthPay24 has been a leader in the healthcare sector for over twenty years. Our business is built on trust, dedication, and some good old-fashioned teamwork. Visit https://www.healthpay24.com to learn more, or request a demo to join the growing number of providers using the HealthPay24 patient engagement solution.