By Jonathan McAlees, SVP of Business Development – Healthcare at Fortis
Healthcare is a business, but it’s also a mission to serve the community. That’s what makes the industry unique. Some of the most cutting-edge technology ever developed is deployed in healthcare settings to prevent disease, treat illnesses and heal injured patients. And yet sometimes at the same institutions, back-office operations run on disconnected and in some cases antiquated business systems. In a sense, that’s understandable because patient care is the top priority.
That said, when healthcare organizations use outdated technologies on the business side of the house, it can have negative effects on patients and the administrative operations of the institution itself. For example, large facilities that don’t have an integrated payment solution can face major reconciliation issues. If payment terminals are linked to different systems that aren’t integrated, the payment data may differ. This can result in patient and staff confusion along with manual data entry, a process that is prone to error.
Smaller facilities like doctor’s offices often struggle with other challenges related to payments. Office administrators need to maximize reimbursement from patients, especially since insurers are picking up a smaller share of the tab today. Patient expectations have shifted thanks to their interactions as customers with businesses, so they are looking for frictionless payments and multiple payment options. In some cases, however, patients are still required to mail a check.
There’s a Cost Attached to the Status Quo
Institutions and practices operating with outdated payment solutions may not prioritize updating their payment system because money is tight or they’re waiting for a silver bullet solution that promises to transform the business side of the operation. But it’s important to acknowledge there’s a cost attached to maintaining the status quo instead of modernizing the payment solution.
The cost of using an outdated payment system may become clear in slow or inaccurate manual data entry, which can result in decisions being made with incomplete or incorrect data. It may manifest itself in patient dissatisfaction when they find no flexibility in rigid rules around how to render payment. It may show up in reimbursement delays when an office administrator is unable to easily track missed payments due to lack of automation or an inability to run reports or match CPT codes in the ledger with payment records.
Also keep in mind that there’s a significant time cost involved in reconciling payment records across disconnected systems, assembling data from disparate sources to create reports or chasing down missed payments. Healthcare is a human-centered sector, and ideally, people who work at healthcare facilities can spend time interacting with patients. Legacy payment systems and the processes connected to them can cut into the time medical professionals spend with patients.
The Business Case for a Modern Payment Solution
Since healthcare management software is critical to operations, one of the primary considerations for healthcare executives should be to find a solution that can seamlessly integrate into their existing platform without disrupting the workflow. There are solutions in the market that can process payments and sync all transactions to the medical practice management software using secure APIs. The system should also support custom reports and automated reconciliation with post-back payment data.
With the right payment partner, healthcare facilities can access an interface to build a secure solution that’s customized and branded for the healthcare organization. Comprehensive solutions, such as Fortis, should include a patient-facing payments page and a full suite of payment processing services that allow patients to pay using the method they prefer, including credit and debit cards, ACH and HSA/FSA accounts.
An integrated system that takes the friction out of payments can improve the patient experience while also optimizing and shortening revenue lifecycles through automated digital invoices and recurring payment scheduling capabilities that include automated patient reminders. It’s also critical to ensure that all data is safely stored within a HIPAA and PCI-compliant system.
Healthcare is unique because it’s a mission-driven sector, and it also faces serious and persistent staffing challenges. So, healthcare executives are looking for ways to cut costs and streamline processes to save staff time and gain operational efficiency. While payment solutions may not be perceived as the latest “shiny object” technology that will change everything, modernizing your approach to payments can improve the patient experience and free staff up to focus on patients — and that’s a significant upgrade.