How Healthcare Providers Can Get Paid in the Mobile Age
By Tom Furr
Two-thirds of all Americans aged 18 to 29 and nearly 60 percent of those between 30 and 49 years of age use a smartphone, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. In addition, the study found about 30 percent of Americans perform banking tasks – like paying bills – via their smartphones.
What does that have to do with your medical practice, you may ask? How well you understand the dynamics of mobile technology and its use in our society has a bearing on your practice’s survival. The management consultancy Deloitte noted that “overall preferences are trending toward mobile use” as it relates to getting information, buying, and paying for things. We can add paying for healthcare.
If there has ever been a reason to finally abandon that creaky old paper-based billing system, it is the ubiquitousness of mobile devices: smartphones, tablets, and even basic mobile phones. Most sources cite 90+ percent of Americans own a cell phone.
Americans prefer to get their bills online and are far more likely to pay them quickly, if not immediately. If you’re sending statements out in paper form, the third time is truly the charm. The Medical Group Management Association calculated that doctors’ offices must send out more than three statements before receiving any payment for services provided.
It’s high time you stopped licking stamps and start to bill electronically with email alerts sent to your patients. If you’re already using some kind of online bill pay method, understand your patients are moving away from the desktop to mobile devices. Adestra, an online marketing firm, found 48 percent of email opens occurred on mobile, 36 percent on desktop, and 19 percent in a webmail client.
Litmus, an email testing and analytics company, reported earlier this year that more email is read on mobile than desktop email clients. It, too indicated about half of all emails are opened on a mobile device. Of the 900 million Gmail users worldwide, 75 percent use their accounts on mobile devices
Campaign Monitor, another email specialist, noted that mobile email opens have grown 180 percent in three years, going from 15 percent in Q1 2011 to 42 percent in Q1 2014.
The changes that have occurred to this country’s healthcare ecosystem in just the last three years have had — and continue to have — profound impact on every person touched by the industry.
The increase in patient responsibility – or should I say liability – as it regards debt has created unprecedented revenue pressure on doctors, clinics, and hospitals. Oddly enough, this intense pressure has not prompted a swift change in most healthcare providers’ mode of operating. A study by JP Morgan noted healthcare providers have been late to turn their focus from clinical applications to their revenue cycle, collections, and payment processing modules. What’s more, this research determined healthcare providers “need to interact with patients in a more direct collections relationship” but “are not providing the level or sophistication of payments services that consumers expect.” This study also observed “the healthcare industry, as a whole still transacts with high volumes of paper.”
Six years ago, a McKinsey survey of retail healthcare consumers showed that 52 percent of respondents would pay from $200 to $500 or more by credit or debit card when they visit a physician if an estimate was provided at the point of care. It appears consumers are not so much unwilling to pay as they are unwilling to pay blindly.
Your patients are telling you what to do. Make payments more convenient and less confusing. Start by moving from paper to electronic and on to mobile
Whether you go the route of email to a secure website or a mobile application, recognize you’re not dealing with a screen more than a couple of inches wide and maybe three or four inches long. More than being “mobile friendly,” your efforts here need to show you’re mobile savvy.
Everything you do for the mobile environment must be simple and with a clear purpose. Simple because there are some technical limitations the wireless infrastructure forces us to handle. Clear because the viewing area is not very big. Intuitiveness is a must. One reason e-retailers are seeing a bump in abandoned shopping carts is their sites and apps aren’t developed with mobile in mind first.
Get the right message presented in the right way to your patients and they will see it on their phones and take action right then. After all, in this mobile age, people check their phone about 150 times a day. It’s how they operate.
Tom Furr is founder and CEO of PatientPay of Durham, NC.