What Healthcare Revenue Cycle Leaders Can Learn from Apple Pay
By Joshua Silver
It often feels like the healthcare industry is just as much about patience as it is about patients. Waiting for final regulations to be approved; waiting to be seen in a doctor’s office; waiting for new EHR systems to be rolled-out; waiting for the final, final, final ICD-10 rollout deadline; just plain waiting.
The waiting game spills over into the consumer technology space too, especially when it comes to mobile payments. Despite the media popularizing the notion of replacing a traditional wallet with a smartphone-based digital wallet nearly a decade ago, mobile payments have yet to become mainstream.
As I watched the recent announcement about Apple Pay, I couldn’t help but think to myself that we might finally be at the tipping point for mobile payments. The payments platform, which Apple bundled into the latest iPhone and iOS 8 operating system, allows consumers to easily pay using their phone in brick-and-mortar retail stores, as well as securely pay for digital goods.
Apple has a proven track record of taking existing consumer technology and repackaging it in such a way that it’s adopted by the masses. When they launched the iPod in 2001, portable MP3 players had already been commercially available for several years, but weren’t widely popular. A few years later, in 2007, when they brought the mobile Web to millions with the iPhone, Apple was building on BlackBerry’s 10-year history in the space. The question remains: can Apple do for mobile payments what it’s done for MP3 players and smartphones?
Additionally, the timing is key as the payments processing industry is poised to transition from magnetic swipe credit cards to “Chip and Signature” EMV-based credit cards. (Visa and MasterCard regulations mandate the switch for nearly all merchants by October 2015.) This macro industry change, coupled with Apple’s long list of banking partners, means that already nearly more than 220,000 stores are equipped to support Apple Pay.
As Apple Pay launches nationwide in October 2014, it’s time for healthcare providers to drop their patience and help their patients by supporting new, consumer-friendly payment technologies. Historically, the healthcare industry has largely taken a “wait and see” approach when new technologies hit the market. However, as healthcare providers face the daunting (and expensive) challenge of getting patients to pay, there is perhaps no other industry that can benefit as much from the recent developments in payment processing technology.
As the options for patient payments continue to diversify and become increasingly complex (nowadays, there is online bill pay, Apple Pay, EMV credit cards, PIN debit cards, eChecks – not to mention the more esoteric options like BitCoin), it’s more important than ever that healthcare providers focus on their core competencies (providing great medical care and a simple billing experience) rather than trying to learn the ins and outs of payment processing. Healthcare providers should look to partner with market-leading vendors who offer comprehensive patient payment platforms. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s rarely the banks.
It’s absolutely critical to use a platform that consolidates all payment types (credit, debit, eChecks — even paper checks) into a single posting report and, if possible, one that will combine all payment types into a single reconciled daily deposit. There is enough complexity in the business office without adding the burden of reconciling additional daily deposits.
With all of the recent news about mega-breaches of cardholder information (Target, Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase, etc.), consumers are beginning to question the status quo of payments, digging deeper into the security of their payment data, and holding the merchants responsible. The last place they expect to find payments innovation is in healthcare. Now is a great time to wow them and get ahead of the market.
Joshua Silver is VP of product development of Patientco of Atlanta, GA.