New payment portals aren’t just for copays: They are an easy, self-service’ option
Patients can pay without involving patient access
Airline passengers can book a flight, check in, scan their boarding pass, and complete post-flight surveys from their phone without ever speaking to a representative. The same process could be true of patients paying a healthcare bill, says Joel Gardiner, national practice leader for Deloitte Consulting’s Revenue Cycle Management Practice for Health Care Providers.
"Imagine a patient experience where scheduling, pre-registration, and all pre-service correspondence with the hospital are done online or even on mobile phones," says Gardiner. Patients could schedule appointments and resolve accounts without ever having to speak with anyone from patient access. "This can be a significant cost-reduction opportunity for the hospital as well as provide a remarkable patient experience," says Gardiner.
While most basic payment portals collect copays for upcoming visits, new portals incorporate complex liability estimation and pull the patient’s prior balances. Gardiner estimates that less than 20% of hospitals are using portals to collect upfront payments and give liability estimates to patients. "The technology is there. The healthcare industry just has to embrace it," he says.
One pitfall with payment portals is inconsistent use by patients.
"To be valuable to both patients and hospitals, online portals need to be both seamless to the patient and integrated with the host systems," says Ketan Patel, a senior manager in the healthcare provider segment of Deloitte Consulting’s Strategy and Operations.
If patients can’t easily understand their liabilities because it’s too confusing, they’ll stop using the portal.
"If portals aren’t integrated into a hospital’s core revenue cycle functions and systems, it can cause an administrative burden to make sure payments and balances are accurately reflected across the main financial systems," adds Patel.
Payment portals generally increase self-pay collections by 5% to 10%, estimates Gardiner. Organizations also see reduced billing costs and decreased labor costs of up to 10%.
"At a minimum, online payments provide an easy, self-service payment option," says Gardiner. "This encourages more patients to resolve their liabilities."