By Michelle Dowling, Vice President of Marketing at Rectangle Health
As 2022 approaches, it seems fitting to reflect on which changes in healthcare have staying power. The past year has shown practices that they can succeed despite the recent obstacles they have faced. Technology has been key to improving many of the processes that were forced to change because of the pandemic, and will continue to create efficiencies in healthcare, across all specialties, in 2022.
Technology allows practices to connect better with patients, increase loyalty, and streamline operations within the office. It has even served to humanize payment experiences previously viewed as only necessary transactions, facilitating a holistic end-to-end journey. Let’s look at how technology can be utilized to continue the digital transformation in 2022.
Adoption of payment plans will increase
Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) has expanded beyond the realm of the retail industry to bring payment plans to patients. This movement will influence how patients want to pay at the practice. According to PYMNTS, 56% of consumers expressed significant interest in payment plans, and each demographic surveyed showed interest in paying for bills not covered by insurance with affordable payments.
Payment plans for healthcare will likely continue to see a rise in adoption because they create a better connection between providers and patients. Bringing this arrangement into the healthcare space shows consideration for patients’ competing financial obligations and gives an option for more manageable payments.
For the practice, this could result in providing care for patients who may not be able to afford a large upfront expense. Additionally, a “set it and forget it” subscription-like mentality is very familiar to patients. This allows practices to receive a steady stream of revenue, over time, where there may have been none.
The digital revolution in healthcare will accelerate
With text messaging and QR codes emerging as preferred communication vehicles for patients, practices will likely see these tools as necessities when contacting patients about payments, notifications, and reminders. Because these tools elicit a faster response than traditional paper- and phone-based outreach efforts, it will be easier for connected practices to communicate with patients.
As more studies report greater consumer interest in and expectation for managing their healthcare online, digital transformations at the practice level will continue to be essential and are already drivers for gaining new patients. According to PYMNTS, 35% of Gen Z, millennial, and bridge millennial patients would switch to providers that offer new digital healthcare management tools. An overwhelming 80% of consumers surveyed by PatientsLikeMe are comfortable or very comfortable using a mobile app to manage their health and wellness.
Making these transformations achievable to satisfy patient expectations will require buy-in from key leaders in enterprise organizations and decision-makers at direct-to-provider practices as well as education, mentorship, and training for staff that will be utilizing these resources. Stakeholder alignment and involvement will ease uncertainty about technology implementation.
Keeping patients loyal by meeting their expectations for digital healthcare management tools will be a major driver for future digital transformation efforts. This loyalty will occur as a result of digital healthcare management being less about payment transactions and more about creating holistic experiences that bring patients and providers together.
The terminal-less office will become ubiquitous
The terminal-less office will continue to transform the healthcare payments space as more practices see the benefits of making this adjustment. Many industries have already gone terminal-less, such as airports, movie theaters, and local restaurants. Not having to take out a wallet and swipe a card has become normalized in a retail setting and that easy transaction is translating to healthcare. Because this digital technology satisfies needs more efficiently, and with greater attention to safety, the terminal-less office concept should grow in 2022.
For practices, the shift to contactless capabilities will continue as cloud-based solutions modernize the office check-in and check-out experience. Eliminating the need for patients to stop at the front desk and produce a card to pay will create smooth transactions at the office.
Systems and data will become both digitized and unified
Today’s healthcare organizations often run multiple systems, use various vendors, and collate data manually. Digitalization of processes can create access to valuable data analytics and reporting, allowing providers and patients access and visibility to information. The importance of data integration and management is imperative for providers to have insight into patient records. This is driving a significant need that only technology can fit.
Giving patients the flexibility to get treatment as they need – through urgent care, via telehealth appointments, or visiting employer-based clinics – will be a necessity in the future as convenience and flexibility become paramount. The common factor underneath this is bringing together data and accessibility to records.
Unification of data providing patients access to their health records, options, and a way to manage their care is going to increase in demand. We’ll see a rise in the ability to streamline data in order to meet all aspects of care – scheduling, follow-up, post-treatment care, and more. Moving toward a streamlined, all-encompassing platform to provide patients with direct, unified access to their records is a way for providers to increase the safety and quality of care, and patients will experience better health outcomes.
The next year is shaping up to be an eventful reaction to the changes brought about by the pandemic, and some of those changes in the healthcare sector will likely become permanent. Increased consumer expectations for digital healthcare management tools have influenced the way practices interact with their patients, seemingly for the better by eliminating areas of frustration, such as the waiting room.
Expect technology to take an even greater role in healthcare, even as patients return to in-office care. With the widespread growth of payment plans, terminal-less offices, and digital communication and payment submission tools, more industry change is on the horizon.
About Michelle Dowling
With more than 20 years of experience in the payments industry, Michelle Dowling is the vice president of marketing at Rectangle Health, a leading health-care technology company. Dowling has spent the last eight years dedicated exclusively to the health-care community, helping practitioners leverage technology, especially Rectangle Health’s flagship product, Practice Management Bridge®, to maximize the revenue cycle and enhance the provider-patient relationship.