In the past several years, consumers have become increasingly comfortable with the concept of electronic payment. Financial trends have created a desire for health care providers to consider a fundamental change in the collection of patient payments. In addition, patients have been obliged to accept more responsibility for health care costs by traditional benefit plans and this has become a driving force behind the shift in attitudes toward electronic payment.
One issue that makes electronic payment options more valuable is the recent economic downturn, which has caused an increase in health care costs for the patient as well as the provider. As a result the bad debt of medical offices continues to rise. This current course is expected to continue for at least several more quarters.
New legislature is also expected to cause changes in the industry. This legislature includes President Obama’s recently signed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which will soon extend health care coverage to an estimated 32 million Americans who were previously uninsured. These legislative changes will ultimately increase the percentage of health-insured citizens in the United States to approximately 95 percent.
For providers and medical practices, it appears likely that millions more patients will be receiving health care services and will be personally paying for at least part of it. Many in the industry are wondering how this will impact the system, since so many currently insured patients are already having difficulty in paying for services in a timely manner.
However, many hospitals, surgery centers, and medical practices throughout the country are thinking ahead and changing the way that they work with their patients by using current, stable and reliable technologies, such as electronic payment options, with a proven track record. These technologies are eco-friendly and bring both economic and environmental benefits such as reduced cost for postage; reduction in use of paper; and obviously much less waste.
Stacy Eaton, Business Office Manager for Mnet Financial, noted that “our electronic payment options include online bill pay links that are embedded on a provider’s webpage as well as other technological products designed to minimize the paperwork of self-pay receivables.” Eaton further added “both patients and providers love our MedDraft program which enables providers to accept payments online. With this service, the provider doesn’t have to remember payment arrangements any longer because MedDraft supports a payment plan contract that is agreed upon between the patient and the facility. MedDraft works seamlessly with Mnet Financial to sustain the account through the life of the receivable.”
Lauren Illescas, Client Services Representative for MedDraft, added that “patients are very happy with the service because it makes life a little easier for them since they can pay their bill through automatic deductions, with their credit cards, debit cards, or checking account. At the same time, providers have reduced their liability because they don’t have to store patient financial information and no longer need to keep track of payment arrangements. It’s really great for everyone involved.”
Illescas also mentioned that she recently demonstrated a preview of the latest innovation in electronic payment plans from MedDraft at the 2013 ASCA conference held in Boston, Massachusetts. “Our new online software, known as PayPlan123, gives the provider the opportunity to set up payment plan options for the patient and email them to the patient for review. Upon acceptance of the payment plan terms, a contract is signed electronically, with notification sent off to the provider. MedDraft supports the payment plan and automates communications of payments, balance changes, and other notifications directly to both the patient and the provider. The provider can oversee the status of all of their current payment plans and patients can keep up to date by viewing their account at any time,” said Illescas.
“Providers tell me that our MedDraft service makes it more convenient for the patients and that the system is easy to use,” said Eaton. “Some have even mentioned that they are now collecting a greater portion of the payments on the date of service and since patients who do not pay in full at time of service can use their credit and debit cards, we know that their medical bill will ultimately be resolved much quicker. I’ve had several providers tell me that this service has drastically reduced their bad debt,” said Eaton.
An added bonus to making use of electronic solutions such as MedDraft is that such a service can minimize work in the provider’s accounting cycle. This effectively decreases the administrative time it takes to oversee payment plans and allows staff time to focus on other areas of account receivables. Weekly invoices with checks are submitted to the facility to post and reconcile within their software.
Also, electronic notifications, like the ones sent by PayPlan123, eliminates the necessity for multiple members of a provider’s staff to interact with account receivables, which could possibly lead to errors. Clearly, with so many advantages from electronic payment technologies, medical offices that are not yet making use of electronic payment solutions could greatly be benefited.