Healthcare billing, as much any other area of payments, is an emerging and complex space. There is room for simplification, no doubt, and SimpleePAY – as its name implies – hopes to provide as much. PYMNTS recently spoke with Tomer Shoval, CEO of SimpleePAY, to get his thoughts on the opportunity to bring a consumer-friendly experience to healthcare payments.
Please introduce us to SimpleePAY. What problems do you solve?
TS: The vision for SimpleePAY is transform the patient financial experience. What most patients in America experience today is a very stressful, time-consuming and frustrating experience. There are different bills from different sources; it’s all paper-based; you need to make a lot of phone calls to the hospital staff or different collection agencies…and you really feel very hopeless and without a lot of information. At SimpleePAY, we want to turn that experience on its head and make it one that is very delightful and trustworthy. We want to move it into the digital era, make it similar to methodologies that really put the consumer in the center.
There are a lot of barriers that exist in healthcare today. We believe that it’s time to change things, remove those barriers and put an emphasis on providing the best-in-class service to patients and – as a result – create a great experience for the healthcare consumers and a sustainable business for the healthcare providers.
End-to-end outsourcing has become a general trend in healthcare. Do you think hospitals should own the patients’ billing and collections or outsource them?
TS: The reason healthcare payments today is so out-of-date and broken is because historically, patients had to pay a very small amount of money out of pocket. You paid for insurance and you practically were covered. And hospitals would get 95 percent or more of their revenue from different insurance companies and the government; for them, the patient payment element was something very small that was always on the back burner.
In the last 10 years, however, there has been a radical change. A new concept of consumer-driven healthcare has been introduced that, in simple terms, means the average American family pays almost $4,000 out of pocket, on top of paying for insurance. That’s a lot of money; and now people are incentivized and motivated to understand how much their bills are going to cost and why they need to pay X instead of Y.
The same goes on the other end of the spectrum. If you’re a CFO for a healthcare provider, you’re looking at almost a third of your revenue coming form patients. You’re thinking, “Hey, this is really a growing problem, and I need to figure out a way to make it sustainable and remove the barriers and frustration and pain points that affects out most important assets – our patients.”
Part of that historical trend – where the patient billing was on the back burner – was that hospitals would outsource patient billing to collection agencies. There are different types and flavors of collection agencies, so, for one thing, the amount of money that hospitals used to pay to those companies would be between 10 and 30 percent. That’s a lot of money for another company to collect payments on their behalf. Secondly, those companies are really not leveraging technology – so it’s brute force, people that sit on the phone, send you letters that scare you…and that is a very broken and unpleasant experience for patients.
Think about what Apple did with their technical support. Instead of outsourcing, they put it in the middle of their stores and called it the Genius Bar. People said it wasn’t going to work and that the cost was going to be too much, but Apple knew something that was very important: customer support and service is a big part of how you can potentially differentiate and get your consumers to appreciate you more than they do the competition. Customers want to go into their stores and buy their products.
You can look at the same trend, now, in patient billing and healthcare. What we tell providers is, “If you’re outsourcing to a brute-force company that does not have the proper technology and flow to treat your patients in the best way, you’d better bring that in house, and make sure that you control the patient experience end-to-end."
By doing that, and leveraging technologies like SimpleePAY, that gets them to transform that hairy, complex and frustrating problem into something that is delightful and trustworthy for their patients.
And it’s quantifiable. As part of our service flow, we ask patients to give us feedback about their satisfaction with the service. One of the questions that we ask is, “Can you tell us if you would recommend the hospital solely based on this new billing and payment experience?” To our delight, more than 8 out of 10 people give us 8, 9, or 10 on a scale of 0 to 10. That’s an amazing result for a service that really just gets people to pay their medical bills. There’s nothing fun or exciting about it, but still, people have such low expectations that – if you really remove barriers – you can get them to appreciate that and become your promoters and your loyal customers.
We do this by basically tackling each and every one of those barriers, removing them and replacing them with things that are best in class. For example, instead of sending paper statements, we use email and text messaging to make the experience more digital, which a lot of people prefer. We also present bills in a more dynamic and easy-to-understand way. Another thing we do is provide financing options on behalf of the provider, at zero interest, allowing patients to pay their bills over time.
There are a lot of items like those that we put into the service, removing roadblocks and getting patients to really appreciate and interact with it.
Mobile billing and payments have experienced a lot of growth in several industries, but the healthcare industry is slow to adopt them. Why is this, and do you expect that trend to change?
TS: Mobile is a huge trend; we see the traction in our space as well. On our platform, we process over a million dollars every day, going back to the start of 2015. Twenty percent of those are mobile payments. It’s a fast-growing segment. – even in healthcare, and specifically in healthcare payments.
Our entire platform is based on responsive design. In simple terms, that means that our technology knows to automatically detect the form factor – the size of your screen – and create an experience that is optimized for it. That gets the adoption and the interaction that we expect.
If you look at other verticals, there are a lot of people taking more and more actions on their mobile devices than they do on a computer. Social sites; banking – they’re all happening on mobile devices. So you have to have a solution that properly supports that trend.
Do you have any examples of how billing has helped healthcare organizations improve the patient’s overall experience?
TS: When we discuss with providers the opportunity of SimpleePAY, we usually help them recognize that their patients are adopting paying their bills in a self-service fashion – on a mobile device or computer – at a rate of less than 10 percent. Americans are paying their bills in a self-service fashion across other verticals at an adoption rate of over 50 percent.
We always make the point to healthcare providers, “Why do you sell yourself short with such a huge cap? You can and should close that gap and get over 50 percent of your patients to take action and pay their bills in a self-service fashion."
We demonstrate to all of our clients that, within 12 months, we are able to make that radical transformation and get over 50 percent of their patients to pay their bills on their own. That’s a tremendous improvement over a typical provider’s performance.
As for one of our recent wins, we are proudly partnering with the largest healthcare system in Houston, called Memorial Hermann. Fourteen hospitals, dozens of medical centers, and thousands of physicians serve this great health system. Within three months after we started working with them, we were able to demonstrate that we can increase the dollar amount and the number of payments that their patients are making in a self-service fashion by more than double.
It really proves the point that when we remove the barriers, patients rapidly adopt their ability to take actions on their own. And when we get such great adoption, it basically replaces what used to be a high-cost item with a low-cost technology. There’s really a great return on investment that we can provide immediately, as well as – from a customer satisfaction standpoint – a competitive advantage.