Creating the Right Digital Experiences for Patient Payments

Many patients would pay their healthcare bill using a digital wallet if given the choice, but creating the right digital experience goes beyond offering the preferred payment method. It also requires careful attention to bill notification and engagement.

A lot of digital experiences in healthcare are just digital entryways layered on top of old and broken processes. For instance, healthcare revenue cycle departments that invest in digital payment options to accelerate self-pay collections often rely on a text notification to alert patients that medical payment is due. The text message links to a patient portal. This results in a clunky digital experience where patients must remember their portal username, password or account number—if they even have a portal account with that provider. They must then comb through the options to locate their statement, find the amount due and retrieve their credit card or checkbook—often in another location—to input their payment information. Even paying as a guest on a portal leads to friction-filled experiences.

Digital-savvy providers eliminate the extra step of signing onto a patient portal. When their patients receive a payment link via text, the link takes patients straight to their bill, with a clear explanation of the service received, the portion paid by insurance, and the total amount due. Patients can click to pay the balance due or even enroll in a payment plan, all with the touch of a smartphone.

Creating seamless experiences is essential at a time when patients want digital options for healthcare payments, but there are crucial steps that some hospital revenue cycle departments miss in designing their approach.

Here are three tips for digital payment design.

Rethink mobile app downloads for digital payments

Many payment portals not only require an individual account to be created, but also direct consumers to download an application onto their mobile device before payment can be made. This is in direct contrast to most retail experiences, where consumers can simply click to pay. When apps are downloaded, this typically leads consumers on a journey where they must choose a username and password, verify their identity and prove they are human. Each step makes healthcare payment more cumbersome—especially when individuals are older or come from non-English-speaking backgrounds. The impact is delayed or missed payments and increased patient frustration.

A better approach is collecting payments directly through links embedded in a text message. This eliminates a redirect to a payment portal or a mobile app. Instead, all payments are processed immediately—via a digital wallet, credit card or ACH, depending on the patient’s choice. Upon completion, the patient receives a digital notification of payment and receipt.

In our experience, 82% of payments made arrive within one week of receiving a text, and 37% of payments made happen within 24 hours after receiving a single text. Among these consumers, 93% pay their bill in full.

Offer extensive options for digital payment

Most healthcare payment systems are built on top of technology that was never designed for collecting payments. As a result, the payment channels are outdated, built for a pre-iPhone world. By investing in a mobile-first approach, healthcare organizations can design a collection channel with patient preferences in mind.

It’s important to look for a system that easily integrates into the revenue cycle team’s workflows and operations, without the need for additional platforms, systems or training for staff or patients.

Incorporate patient financing options into your digital approach

At a time when inflation is increasing at its fastest pace in 40 years and consumers are tapping into savings to pay for basic necessities, flexible repayment plans unhampered by credit scores or unaffordable interest rates, are crucial. The best digital options offer consumers the opportunity to establish a payment plan for their healthcare bill directly from their phone, with text-to-payment notifications when monthly payments are due. This reduces the administrative load for healthcare revenue cycle staff while putting payment power in patients’ hands.

One option for engagement is giving patients the ability to self-manage their accounts. At Atrium Health, for example, patients can change the terms of their agreements from a zero-interest plan to a low-interest plan with lower monthly payments when financial circumstances change. This approach helps patients control their own financial experience. It also eliminates the need for hospital staff to accept, record, and manage payments.

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