Patients have long been frustrated by the administrative and billing hassles that follow medical treatment. Hospitals increasingly recognize the negative effects this has on their reputations and are testing new ways to make it easier for patients to pay and for providers to get paid.
Providers have started to think more about consumerism and patient experience. “We didn’t use that terminology in healthcare 20 years ago. Everything in health systems was all about clinical outcomes,” said Motti Edelstein, vice president of revenue cycle management for Allina Health, a not-for-profit health system based in Minneapolis.
This is driving more hospitals and health systems to partner with financial technology—or fintech—companies to ease patient billing both pre- and post-service, said Jonathan Lo, Deloitte Consulting’s global revenue management leader. “It’s a huge shift in mindset for health systems,” he said.
Vendors such as AccessOne, Cedar, Patientco, PayZen and VisitPay have emerged as partners to hospitals seeking the twin benefits of happier patients and better revenue collection.
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Consumers are used to seamless transactions in their everyday lives when interacting with other industries, such as banking, retail and hospitality, and expect frictionless and flexible ways to pay bills. The healthcare business is finally starting to catch up. “We’re behind everybody else,” Edelstein said. “If a patient is used to ordering and paying with their iPhone, we want to be there.”
The interest in fintech vendors stems from broader trends in U.S. healthcare. Health insurance policies require patients to shoulder a greater and greater share of medical expenses out of pocket. The government is pushing price transparency and curbing surprise bills.
The growing out-of-pocket burden that patients face also affects providers, which now have to collect a greater portion of their reimbursements directly from patients. “It’s just like another payer,” said Anthony Cunningham, vice president of patient financial services at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.