The pandemic has changed the way we interact with the doctor.
And it just may change the way we pay the doctor, too.
It’s no secret that the billing and payment experience within the U.S. healthcare system is a fragmented and fraught one. Paper statements, opaque coding and unforeseen expense are enough to make getting access to medical care a daunting process.
Healthcare, Blitch told Karen Webster in a recent interview, has always been a “touch-centric culture,” involving check-in, interactions with the nurse, then the doctor and eventually checking out and paying a co-payment.
But amid the pandemic, Blitch said, “people don’t desire to go into a doctor’s office quite like they used to.”
Many patients are opting for telemedicine, amid a digital shift. The payments piece of the equation has to follow suit — and play catch-up.
The connected economy, said Blitch, is helping providers to “meet the patients where they are” whether on a tablet or smartphone.
Meeting patients at the points of tech-enabled interaction they desire also means not asking them to download or update apps or enter usernames and passwords every time they look to make appointments or pay bills.
In healthcare, the data needed for payments reconciliation rests within a patient accounting system, which in turn sits inside an electronic health record. Firms like Epic own the clinical diagnostics, Blitch said, but because the financial responsibility of Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield or even the patient is connected to those clinicals, they sit inside the patient accounting system.
Claims have to be filed in order for providers to be paid in the first place. Far-flung, back-end systems mean that accounts receivables and cash flow management is less than optimal. Large health systems, he said, are tasked with managing disparate payment vendors to move money.
“Then you’ve got gateways, processors and terminals, and they have to be integrated into the healthcare information systems,” he said, adding that “If you’re a [healthcare] CFO, you are really paying attention to all these dollars.”
To help solve those complexities, he said that Patientco operates a platform where all those groups operate together.
“The core of what we are solving for is around affordability and transparency,” he said. “Seamless financial care requires coordination across multiple departments, from scheduling to pre-service check-in, all the way to back office components.”
Moving Toward Transparency
In an example of that seamless flow across the platform model, he said that communicating through text messages to a patient, with links to the diagnostics expected to be provided at the appointment and details on what the financial liability will be once services are rendered, promotes transparency.
And in a nod to affordability — through the company’s intelligent financing platform called SmartFinance — patients can determine whether they want to pay upfront, pay out of a health savings accounts, or use a payment plan that sits on the balance sheet of their health plan, he said.
The process “reduces anxiety, creates clarity, and helps meet expectations that the end consumer has — similar to what they expect in different retail environments. When they show up at the doctor’s office, they actually know as much as the person who is at the front office helping to check them in.”
He said that the platform is governed by an overarching principle. Just as healthcare services and procedures take into account each individual’s history, demographics and unique situation, so, too, should the financial aspect of the process. Older patients, he said, may prefer to write checks. Younger patients may prefer to communicate across their smartphones.
As he told Webster: In life, success rests with “just being on the same page with the person you're talking to. And certainly, that’s the case in healthcare.”