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The Current Healthcare Payments Landscape and Future Opportunities

The overarching trend in today’s healthcare payments system is that high deductibles have become the norm and patients now have greater financial responsibility. Out-of-pocket expenses are projected to reach $608 billion in 2019 according to a report by Kalorama Information. Here are more trends defining the current healthcare payments landscape:

Confused Patients

Faced with higher deductibles more than ever before, patients are also struggling to understand their bills. A 2016 survey revealed that 72 percent of patients have received a medical bill that they didn’t understand. In addition, according to new research from NORC at the University of Chicago, 57 percent of US adults say they've received a surprise medical bill, and 82% say hospitals are "very" or "somewhat" responsible for their surprise bills,.

Antiquated Processes

Tasks like coverage verification, sending and receiving bills, and obtaining prior authorization (tasks which can all be automated) are costing healthcare providers $9.5 billion annually according to Business Insider Intelligence. These administrative tasks are also one of the reasons of increasing medical bills. Billions could be saved just by automating the antiquated processes in these areas.

Fortunately, healthcare providers and collection firms are investing in new digital payment solutions to combat these antiquated processes according to the latest survey by BillingTree. 54.5% of respondents plan on adding web payments (patient payment portals) within the next 12 months, and 27% plan to add “text to pay bill” (text payments) for the same period.

Paper Payment Systems

There’s still a lot of work to do in the healthcare payments landscape in terms of moving from paper to digital. In a recent InstaMed survey, 58 percent of providers said paper statements are the primary method for patient collections and a shocking 41 percent have not changed their billing process in more than 5 years. This is confirmed by the fact that 79 percent of patients said they have received a paper medical bill. 

Most interestingly, a study of large data breaches (affecting 500 patients or more) by researchers at the University of Central Florida and at the United States Air Force Joint Base in Charleston, South Carolina, revealed that paper and films were the most frequent location of breached data, occurring in 65 hospitals during the study period. While network servers were the least common location, but network server breaches affected the most patients overall.

Future Opportunities: Optimizing Your Revenue Cycle

A recent TransUnion analysis showed that 30% of self-pay accounts (those patients without health insurance or those that have a patient balance after insurance) will generate more than 80% of the self pay revenue collected by hospitals. This means that hospitals may be leaving millions on the table if their revenue cycle is less than optimal. An optimized revenue cycle ensures that earned revenue becomes paid revenue.

Why is this significant? The number of patients without health insurance increased to more than 12% at the end of 2017. In addition, Patient Balances after Insurance (PBAI) grew from 8% of the total bill responsibility in 2012 to 12.2% in 2017. The uninsured rate also grew from 10.9% in 2016 to 12.2% in 2017.

When healthcare providers focus too much on cost control measures, they are missing the bigger picture. As an example in 2018, cutting costs was the highest priority for 63% of hospital C-suite executives, according to a Premier survey.  But a recent Advisory Board study indicated that the typical 350-bed hospital may be leaving $22 million on the table by focusing on cutting costs over optimizing their revenue cycle.

Inefficiencies in the billing process is a huge problem in the healthcare industry but it also creates a massive market opportunity for new and existing healthcare payment tech players.

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