The days of sitting down with the good old checkbook to pay the bills are long gone – but the healthcare industry has continued to ignore that memo. Still tirelessly mailing out paper bills, month after month, practices struggle to collect on accounts receivable and spend exorbitant amounts of money on producing, stuffing, stamping and mailing paper statements.
Why? The answer is not clear, at least not to me. There are all kinds of research available suggesting this collections method is no longer working for physicians and that patients (consumers in general) want to pay their bills online.
The 2013 InstaMed Trends in Healthcare Payments Annual Report reported that it took 76 percent of providers more than one month to collect from a patient in 2013. 78 percent indicated they typically mailed more than one paper statement to collect a patient payment.
Only two percent of consumers surveyed in the report said that they received their healthcare bills via email in 2013. And when asked how they normally pay their non-healthcare bills, such as utility or cable bills, 55 percent said that they paid online and 24 percent said that they paid via their bank’s bill pay portal.
That is a whopping 79% of consumers paying bills online.
“Distressingly, 98 percent of all bills issued by healthcare providers in this country are paper form; which means most medical practices behave like someone’s sweet grandma when it comes to securing payment,” writes Tom Furr in a Physician’s Practice article titled Why Online Patient Bill Pay Can Save Your Medical Practice Time, Money.
Aside from the powerful argument that practices will be more successful at collecting money with an online bill pay portal – they will clearly save money on labor, supplies and postage by offering paperless e-statements.
The apprehension amongst practices seems to be a result of fear of change and costs associated with implementing a new system. Which would be understanding if it was a valid concern. With a variety of programs to implement online bill pay available, there are certainly easy to use, affordable options.
These programs often require very little training and bring more organization, consistency in sending statement information and ease to the reconciliation process.
Many practices are unwilling to move to an online service because they fear the shift might hinder operations and productivity. While that is an understandable concern, it’s misguided. The best online service does not upset your office’s routine, can be implemented quickly, and does not require “time-sucking” staff training.
With the rise of high deductible health plans and the evolution of healthcare reform, practices will see patient’s carry more of a financial burden. They will need, convenient options to accommodate online bill pay savvy patients and stay competitive in their market.