How dental practices can improve patient payment rates with a Netflix-inspired approach

Dentists

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Between rent, car payments, daycare expenses and phone bills, dental and medical expenses can get lost in the pile of envelopes filled with monthly and weekly statement balances.

About one in five insured Americans and nearly half of all uninsured Americans report difficulty paying medical bills, according to Michael Peluso, Rectangle Health's chief technology officer. Mr. Peluso cited the statistic during an April 25 webinar presented by Becker’s Dental + DSO Review.

The burdens of medical and dental expenses are not new. During the first six months of 2017, around 45 million people had difficulty paying their medical bills during the preceding 12 months. And healthcare costs continue to build. According to Mr. Peluso, out-of-pocket spending reached $365 billion in 2017, a 3.6 percent spike compared to 2016.

Due to mounting costs, some patients choose to delay or skip medical care. For many that do seek care, paying off medical and dental bills becomes a long-term challenge. Sixty-eight percent of patents failed to fully pay off their balances in 2016. This number is anticipated to surge to 95 percent by 2020, according to figures cited by Mr. Peluso during the webinar.

However, just because patients delay medical payments and fail to pay off their bills quickly doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to pay. Mr. Peluso said 20 percent of patients would be willing to put dental and medical bills on a credit card and pay it off over time.

During a Rectangle Health-sponsored webinar, Mr. Peluso discussed what patients want from their dental and medical provider and detailed a simple solution for improved patient payment rates.

Patients are the new consumer

Patients, like consumers in other industries, want price transparency when it comes to medical and dental bills. However, billing transparency has not been a hallmark of the patient financial experience. A part of this lack of visibility into cost is related to the payment complexity unique to healthcare.

"Healthcare is one of the few industries in the world where you can consume goods and services and walk out the door without paying," Mr. Peluso said. "For example, there is no other consumer experience that exists where a patient can go into a grocery store fill their cart up with all sorts of goods and then walk to the checkout line and say 'I'm not going to pay today. Send a claim to my grocery store insurer. See if they pay you, and if they don't, well then send me a bill.'"

Patients want their healthcare financial experience be comparable to what they experience in other industries, such as retail. To achieve this, dental practices and hospitals can simply deploy existing technology that has already been used to transform the billing experience in other industries.

Electronically accommodating the patient

Many brick and mortar retail stores have shuttered in recent years with the rise of online shopping. However, hospitals and dental practices don't need to shut their doors to adopt the best practice from retail's online overhaul: electronic payments.

Around 95 percent of patients surveyed by Rectangle Health indicated they'd pay their bills online if the provider had electronic payments as an option. Seventy-one percent said mobile payment and billing alerts improved their satisfaction with providers.

The key is to make it easier for patients to pay by whatever method best suits them at the time of visit, such as cash, check or charge. Installing mobile payment options, including Samsung and Apple Pay, also increase patient's payment rates, according to Mr. Peluso.

Beyond just giving patients on online portal to make payments, dental and hospital leaders can take Netflix's lead and adopt its 'card on file' philosophy.

"The biggest underutilized option in healthcare is card on file," Mr. Peluso said. "This is something that the healthcare industry can really utilize to solve all the payment challenges. Card on file is used everywhere in the consumer experience. Card on file in the healthcare industry can eliminate paper billing and patient days in accounts receivable. This also allows healthcare providers to give a better patient experience."

Conclusion

The healthcare industry doesn't have to lag behind when it comes to payment collections. Practices also don’t need to put the blame on the patient for not paying a bill. Seeing patients as consumers and giving them a consumer-focused experience can alter a dental practices or hospital's revenue cycle management.

"Payment networks of the world have made it so merchants can collect from their consumers relatively easy. This same technology, the same products, the same functionality can all be leveraged in the healthcare space," Mr. Peluso concluded.

To learn more about Rectangle Health, click here.
To watch the webinar, click here.
How dental practices can improve patient payment rates with a Netflix-inspired approach

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