A 2020 study revealed that 58% of healthcare providers’ primary payment collection method is mailing paper statements. When considering the societal shift away from paper notifications and toward digital notifications, this method of payment collection makes little sense. You can pay for a pizza inside an app, but most doctors are still relying on the United States Postal Service to deliver their bills...
The advent of smartphones and their accompanying notifications has led to a shift in how consumers are accustomed to receiving information. Indicative of this is the reported number of times the average consumer checks their phone each day, ranging from 52 times on the low end to 262 times on the high end, and, notably, American consumers’ average daily screen time crossed the four-hour mark in 2021.
While it’s no surprise that the average consumer checks their mail significantly less than 52 times per day, it is surprising that 50% of the mail American households receive is marketing mail. So doctors aren’t only sending bills via an antiquated system but also attempting to do so via a medium saturated with junk mail.
This adds an extra layer of complexity to the average consumer's bill-paying journey. When patients have to find bills amongst a mess of spam, it decreases the likelihood that they will: (1) see the bill, (2) open the bill, (3) recognize that it is a bill, and (4) pay the bill. The last thing that any provider should want is the letter that they paid an employee to print, stamp, and seal, not even registering on the patient's radar as a bill!
With patients now becoming increasingly more responsible for covering a large portion of their medical bills, healthcare providers should be highly motivated to optimize their bill collection process. To do so, they need only to look to the patients themselves and design a system that speaks their language. The following are a few tips providers can follow to do just that.
First, enable online bill payment.
86% of patients are already paying their recurring, non-healthcare bills online. As smartphones grow in prevalence and the internet noses its way towards being included in the basic human necessities conversation, allowing consumers to pay online is a no-brainer! Patients are already on their phones every day, often browsing the internet. Make it easy for them to add healthcare bills to their monthly bill-paying routine. Don’t make them buy stamps to pay you.
Frictionless payment is a must.
Second, send patients eStatements.
Beyond just paying online, consumers also want to get their bills in the form of eStatements. Currently, only 29% of patients receive their bills as eStatements, but 75% of consumers want their doctors to send them eStatements. Doctors should be keen to send eStatements for various reasons, but mostly because their patients are telling them that’s what they want! Your patients are telling you the best way to contact them to collect payment; take advantage of it!
eStatements are also cheaper, easier, and lower risk than mailed paper statements. Every letter that goes in the mailbox has the chance to get lost, every bill that gets sent needs a stamp, and every envelope needs to be sealed. It’s a highly inefficient process, requiring significant capital and labor without any guarantee of even reaching the intended target. eStatements, on the other hand, can be automated, require zero envelopes or stamps, and don’t require being delivered by hand to a box that is nailed to the outside of your patients’ homes.
Still, eStatements benefits continue, as eStatements can easily enable frictionless payment. If your practice allows online bill payment, each eStatement can include a simple “PAY NOW” button. Paper bills just can’t do that. The best that most bills offer is a phone number for patients to call and make a payment over the phone. Still, that has its limitations, as payment via phone requires (1) the patient to dial the phone, (2) an employee (that you have to pay) to take their payment information and input it into the system correctly, and (3) the patient to find the time to call during business hours. On the other hand, eStatements combined with online payment enable 24/7 payment.
Third, use SMS to notify patients of bills.
It's reported that 98% of SMS messages are opened and read. That same report found a click-through rate of 19% for SMS, compared to only 2% for email! Beyond SMS’s incredible efficiency is found a burning desire for more SMS communication between consumers and businesses, as nearly 80% of consumers wish businesses would text them more.
A recent Pew Research Center report revealed that 97% of Americans own a cellphone, and 85% of Americans own a smartphone. This means that most people can be reached via text and then pay their bills from their phones. This provides healthcare providers with a massive opportunity to combine the first two tips (online bill payment and eStatements) in the most efficient and effective way possible.
Doctors should be sending eStatements via text, where they will have a nearly 100% chance of being seen by their recipients, and enabling patients to pay those bills from their phone. It's the perfect combination.
Fourth, facilitate payment plans and automated payments.
Finally, allow patients to effortlessly set up payment plans with automated payments. More than half of patients want the option to finance their payment. Many providers think that utilizing companies like LendingClub and CareCredit fills this need; however, these two products can have severe adverse effects on patients and shouldn’t be relied on by doctors. Instead, providers should strive to enable easy, in-house payment plans, which 53% of patients have experience using.
Patients are often willing to pay their bills, but paying in one lump sum can be unmanageable for many patients. By providing payment plans, doctors can allow patients the flexibility they need and still collect payment with the enablement of automated payments. Doctors should understand that payment in full via a payment plan is much more desirable than the ~22% they might collect if they use a collection agency to collect the debt.
Implementation is possible
While these changes might seem daunting right now, implementing them is possible. In fact, Peachy exists to do just that. Peachy believes that paying bills shouldn’t be difficult and that doctors shouldn’t need to rely on collection agencies to get paid. By utilizing an SMS-based notification system, Peachy directs patients’ bills into their most intimate inbox: their text messages. Then, it allows easy payment or payment-plan set up with just a few clicks.
And if you needed any more reason to beef up your payment system, consider this: 56% of consumers would consider switching providers for a better healthcare payment experience. Utilizing a modern bill payment and notification system, like the one Peachy enables, can help your practice get paid and attract new patients. It’s a no-brainer!