Dec 10, 2020

Online Patient Bill Pay: Why Healthcare Practices Need to Catch Up

Last updated June 21, 2021  |  Published December 10, 2020 by Helen Farnen

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How many bills do you pay online? If you’re like most people in the United States, you probably pay at least half of them through digital billing platforms. Over the last decade, online bill pay has become an integral part of how society spends and collects money. From digital banking to mobile wallets, there are several ways for consumers to make payments in just a few clicks. 

Despite the widespread adoption of online bill pay, the healthcare industry hasn’t quite caught up with the greater market. Data shows that patients prefer digital payments to all other kinds, with 68% wanting online payments in their physician offices. With patients shouldering more personal responsibility than ever, how can healthcare practices securely and effectively incorporate the solution in their operations?

A Brief History of Online Bill Pay 

Paying bills on the web has become such standard practice in our lives that it’s hard to remember a time when it wasn’t the go-to option. However, the history of digital payments only spans a few decades. The very first recognized online payments began in the 1990s. In 1994, Stanford Federal Credit Union became the first financial institution to offer online bill pay to all of its members. PayPal launched the first version of its online payment system in 1999. 

Consumers didn’t begin to flock to online bill pay until the early 2000s as the percentage of American households with computers began to increase. By 2006, 80% of banks in the United States offered online banking services to customers. Just four years later, research performed by Fiserv found that online banking was growing at a faster pace than the internet. Apple unveiled ApplePay in 2014, allowing for mobile payments through credit and debit cards. Experts forecast that the global mobile payment market size will reach $3.6 trillion by 2024. 

3 Reasons Healthcare Practices Lag Behind 

Today, patients are responsible for a greater portion of their healthcare costs. 80% of patients want to make health plan premiums digitally. Yet, the majority of plans and practices still use paper and manual processes for payment collections. In fact, an estimated 86% of patients receive paper bills from their providers.

What’s responsible for the disconnect? The following concerns are some of the most common reasons why healthcare organizations are slow to implement digital payments:

  • Cost: Allowing for online bill payments requires practices to develop and host their own solution or work with a third-party vendor. The potential initial cost of implementation plus long-term subscription and hosting fees can be a deterrent for some providers. 
  • On-going support: Organizations want to know how staff will be supported as they launch online bill pay and integrate it into their services. Related concerns include training, downtime, and ease of use. Customer questions or technical issues with the bill pay webpage could mean extra technical support is needed, creating additional expenses for the practice.
  • Privacy and security: Electronic billing activities are subject to privacy and security regulations under HIPAA. Providers want to ensure the security of PHI, comply with consumer protection laws, and protect against data breaches. 

Greater Patient Satisfaction, Faster Payments, and Fewer Defaults

Many practices have turned to patient engagement portals to securely communicate with patients and to provide convenient scheduling options. Online bill pay is a natural next step for increasing satisfaction—it gives patients the freedom to make payments on their own time, avoiding the need to travel to the practice or pay over the phone during business hours. While the time saved may not seem significant in quantitative terms, it is substantial in its psychological impact. Studies have shown that people tend to overestimate the time spent waiting by 40%. So, when you offer online payments, you’re also giving patients a little more time in their day.

Payments from patients cost four times more to collect than payments from insurance companies. These costly and often slow collections are enough to impact any revenue cycle negatively. With an online payment system, practices will receive payments quicker and reduce the cost of billing and follow-up. Instead of setting aside a paper bill to pay later, patients can make online payments as soon as they receive the notice in their email. 

Practices can develop payment plans for patients and collect those payments on a scheduled basis. Doing so helps to reduce the number of defaults incurred by patients and maintain healthier cash flows. These payments post automatically, requiring no manual reconciliation. 

Just as digital payment channels have evolved over the years, so have payment solutions for healthcare practices. At RXNT, we understand how critical it is to the health of your practice to receive payments on-time. We also recognize the importance of protecting and securing private data from end-to-end; we’re committed to consumer and patient data security and follow strict data security protocols to keep that data safe. Our online bill payment solution is available through our Patient Portal.

To learn more about how our online bill payment solution can help your practice increase revenue and decrease collection times, get a quick, no pressure demonstration

Additional Sources:

Paper or Plastic? The Definitive List of Cash Versus Credit Card Spending Statistics

3 statistics on medical billing, patient payments

Top Reasons Consumers Prefer Online Payments

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Find out why our award-winning, certified solutions are the right fit for your practice. Since 1999, we have provided integrated, cloud-based Electronic Prescribing (eRx), Electronic Health Records (EHR) with patient portal, and Practice Management (PM) with medical billing and scheduling.

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