Health insurance is something most consumers hope they never have to use, but when they do run into healthcare costs following medical treatment, they expect that their insurance payouts will come quickly, to cover the care they need to get back in peak condition.
In the $3.5 trillion-per-year healthcare space – once ruled by checks – insurance players, both large and small, are increasingly embracing new methods of digital disbursements.
Some companies have put their faith into distributed ledger solutions, believing the tech could be a major part of the path to more efficient payments — but not everyone has their eyes on the blockchain.
Recently, players in the health insurance space invested in the development and debut of solutions that use smartphones and other modern staples to offer payments to patients.
Reducing Out-of-Network Medical Bills
One of the companies focused on smartphone-assisted payouts is Better, a startup that advocates on the patient’s behalf to reduce expensive, out-of-network medical bills.
Better combines automation with human expertise to cut down on healthcare costs. That includes finding billing errors — which can result in overcharges of up to 26 percent — and addressing any other medical billing confusion.
After downloading the app, users verify their identities by entering their personal information and adding a photo. The app then uses that information to contact insurance companies and whittle down bills as much as possible.
The solution also works to make the insurance claim processes easier and more efficient, by filing out-of-network claims for medical expenses and handling other similar tasks.
But the app doesn’t just look for ways to save customers money — it’s also designed to process and disburse payments to consumers. So far, the company has processed “millions of dollars” in insurance payouts, according to Rachael Norman, the company’s founder.
Additionally, unlike traditional insurance plans, users do not have to pay to access the service. Instead, Better takes 10 percent of any discount or price deduction as its payment.
Turning to Instant Payments
There are other companies like Better that hope to make the health insurance payout process, well, a little better.
InstaMed, for one, is a solution provider that allows consumers to pay doctors and other healthcare providers more easily.
The platform enables providers to collect payments via smartphones or other mobile devices from remote environments, including emergency rooms, home offices or any other place where a doctor or healthcare provider might interact with a patient. Healthcare providers that use the platform can automatically post payments to management systems, email receipts to patients on demand and allow access to all payment transactions via a mobile device.
The company also boasts a Claim Settlement, which offers ERA and EFT transaction capabilities to insurance providers. The solution also works to increase adoption of modern payment methods and cut down on the costs associated with claim settlements.
But while Better and others in the space are hoping to use technology to improve the healthcare insurance disbursement process, a range of challenges still stand in the way of innovation.
For instance, while offering a tech-heavy solution to reduce complications may seem appealing, it can also prove difficult to make new technology work efficiently with legacy devices like fax machines, call centers or paper bills. What’s more, the health insurance field is an inherently complex one, marked by confusing processes that make it difficult to design a one-size-fits-all solution.
Complicating matters further, companies like Better and InstaMed often struggle to access medical records due to privacy regulations and permissions. This can sometimes make it impossible for these apps and others like them to accomplish their tasks, and end the hope for a more efficient disbursement process.
Digital disbursement tools may be receiving increased attention from those in the health insurance space, but they will have to clear these and other hurdles if they want to make their presence truly felt throughout the market.
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