Deep Dive: How Biometrics And Contactless Payments Are Key To Creating Patient-First Healthcare Experiences

The healthcare industry’s rapid changes over the past year required providers to adjust to new operations at their in-person facilities as well as cope with surges in visitors digitally accessing their services. Telehealth visits rose rapidly during the global health crisis’s early months, accounting for 13 percent of private medical claims in April 2020 compared to the less than 1 percent they accounted for in January of that year. PYMNTS data also found that consumers’ demands for digital healthcare experiences were 50 to 175 times greater at the start of the health crisis than they were before it. Virtual visits have declined since their April 2020 peak, but telehealth services are still experiencing increased adoption compared to their 2019 rates.

The digital healthcare migration has created some significant challenges for healthcare providers. They must ensure that their patients’ virtual experiences offer the speed, quality and privacy that puts them on a par with in-person visits, and many customers are beginning to ask their healthcare providers to support digital payment methods, such as contactless credit and debit card payments. Consumers are also expressing more concerns regarding online privacy and these digital health services’ security. One recent study found that 54 percent of patients cited concerns regarding cybersecurity when accessing their personally identifiable information (PII) online, for example.

Digital verification and re-verification solutions must be a component of healthcare providers’ new digital channels and services to ease patients’ concerns, as failing to do so could severely impact consumers’ trust in their providers, yet these solutions must also not add undue friction. The following Deep Dive will analyze emerging trends and developments within the broader healthcare industry as well as examine how digital shifts are affecting identity verification and payment needs within the space. It will also explore why supporting robust digital identification solutions and innovative payments in a personalized way is a necessary part of providing the patient-centric experiences consumers crave.

Shifting Telehealth Payment Preferences And Security Needs  

Consumers’ interest in telehealth services has been on the rise for several years, but the global health crisis played a large role in prompting healthcare providers to support virtual services. One October 2020 study found that the portion of physicians who used telehealth to connect with patients had increased fourfold since 2019, for example.

Healthcare providers and medical professionals must overcome a steep learning curve as they build out these digital-first health solutions, however, which includes responding quickly to patients’ new expectations for interactions and transactions. Consumers are putting more stock in accessing smoother healthcare payments, as more than half of patients are willing to contemplate switching providers if doing so granted improved payment experiences. More patients are looking for mobile-optimized payment solutions as well, with 31 percent of customers claiming that they pay their medical bills faster when they can do so via mobile app.

Consumers are also seeking swift payment methods that can be used for both virtual and in-person visits, prompting more interest in contactless solutions. These trends signify that healthcare providers must prioritize offering digital-first payment methods and telehealth services to meet patients’ new expectations. Successfully operating in a digital-first healthcare space requires putting cutting-edge verification solutions and security measures in place, however. The need for more stringent security methods is intensifying as the healthcare space — especially the virtual healthcare arena — becomes of higher interest to fraudsters, stoking fears of medical identity theft that could also financially impact patients. Fraudsters utilizing stolen credentials could impersonate patients to file false insurance claims, for example, defrauding the patient, the healthcare provider and the insurer all at once. Implementing identity verification solutions that can block such schemes and easily distinguish between legitimate consumers and fraudsters armed with synthetic identities is thus critical.

Privacy Telehealth Payment Preferences And Security Needs

The events of the past year have illuminated healthcare providers’ evolving security needs. Fraudsters are increasingly targeting the space as services move online and as consumers’ privacy and security preferences change — and bad actors have been quick to take advantage of these shifts. Data breaches now cost healthcare providers $7.1 million per incident on average — the highest average cost observed for any industry. Lost PII also costs an average of $150 per individual record regardless of industry, which means recovering from such breaches is becoming an expensive endeavor for companies of all types.

Medical data theft can be particularly devastating for providers and patients, especially as the former must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and other regulatory requirements about storing sensitive information. Data breaches that allow fraudsters to access such information could violate these rules and enable bad actors to create synthetic identities and launch other fraud schemes.

Medical entities can also lose patients’ trust if they fail to keep their data safe. Customers’ expectations for online privacy and security are rising alongside their expectations for better access to digital healthcare services. The portion of consumers who would abandon their healthcare providers for new services in the event of a cyberattack swelled 30 percent between 2019 and 2020, for example, and the majority of consumers are reporting concerns about security when they log in and view their PII online with their healthcare providers. Consumers want to be sure that their providers are keeping this login process safe from fraudsters, protecting gateways such as patient portals, for example. Forty-six percent of providers noted that securing such portals can be challenging when patients also expect the login process to be seamless. Figuring out how to balance those two components represents a critical task for providers as the healthcare space further digitizes.

The Future Of Identity Verification In Healthcare 

Healthcare providers can tap a varied list of emerging technologies and solutions, including biometrics, liveness detection or automated data comparisons, to verify patients’ identities and keep their virtual platforms safe. Consumers’ growing mobile-centric tendencies make biometrics an enticing option. Many smartphones enable biometric solutions such as facial or fingerprint recognition, which could grant enhanced security to healthcare providers rolling out more digital services. One study found that 54 percent of Americans chose biometrics as their top choice for healthcare record identification — a fact that speaks to consumers’ comfort with using such verification methods.

Integrating biometrics into telehealth services and healthcare payments for stronger verification presents numerous possibilities for healthcare providers, allowing them to implement higher security and more robust credentialing services while also championing personalization and ease of use for consumers. These concepts are becoming more common in the healthcare industry as virtual care expands, indicating that providers are aware of the need for identification innovation. The presence of digital identities unique to each individual’s biometric signature may remain a point of interest within the healthcare space for the next few years as security needs shift. The healthcare industry is going through a period of rapid digital innovation, and providers will have to keep their eyes on digital identity trends and challenges to ensure they are keeping both themselves and their customers safe.