When it comes to the healthcare payment experience, patients are increasingly looking for digital tools that offer greater convenience and flexibility.
To put it more succinctly, “consumers want it all” when asked what features they would prefer in digital health payment platforms, according to a survey of 2,500 U.S. consumers by PYMTNS.com. For example, 79% of consumers said they would prefer to have a single digital healthcare platform to manage their entire healthcare financial experience.
Other popular features included the ability to find financing options for medical bills (72%), assistance with finding providers for medical bill financing (71%), ability to store credit card information (61%), and ability to store bank account information (57%).
Clearly, patients are looking for a quick, seamless, and simple payment experience from their medical providers. Along those lines, here are four trends to follow that are impacting the patient payment experience today.
Automation to counter rising labor costs
Healthcare organizations from across the spectrum are seeking and implementing new approaches to counter the new reality of staffing shortages and rising labor costs, with some employing automation and virtual staffing models to ease burdens on existing team members.
Healthcare labor issues are one trend we certainly haven’t heard the last of. For many provider organizations, worker shortages are likely to grow more challenging in the future. For example, Mercer estimates that by 2025, the U.S. is expected to have a shortage of approximately 446,000 home health aides, 95,000 nursing assistants, 98,700 medical and lab technologists and technicians, and more than 29,000 nurse practitioners. However, by automating various rote tasks, such as enabling patients to self-schedule appointments, providers free staff members to spend more face-to-face time with patients, increasing job satisfaction while also improving the patient experience.
Mirroring the retail experience
To increase patient engagement and boost collection rates, providers are increasingly looking for ways to deliver a retail-like, seamless user experience that mimics the convenience and personalization that patients have come to expect from other consumer-facing industries. Often, that means offering self-service digital engagement tools that increase transparency and ability to pay, such as pre-service cost estimates and optional post-service payment plans.
For provider organizations, among the most significant implications of healthcare’s evolution toward consumerism involves “a broad shift in focus from the healthcare market as a whole to individual healthcare consumers,” according to consulting firm Mercer. That’s why providers are increasingly adopting digital patient engagement and payment tools that enable patients to have the type of flexible, personalized, and user-friendly experiences they get elsewhere in their day-to-day lives.
Next-generation payment methods
Accustomed to being afforded flexibility in how they make payments when shopping online or in-person with retailers, consumers are beginning to expect the same from healthcare providers. As a result, providers have become more willing to embrace next-generation payment methods like digital wallets, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, and buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) plans, which are especially helpful for procedures or medications with high out-of-pocket costs.
BNPL payments, for example, are expected to account for nearly a quarter of all global ecommerce transactions by 2026, up from just 9% in 2021, according to Juniper Research. While BNPL is attractive across all age groups, the option holds particular interest for younger consumers. In 2021 eMarketer forecasted that 44% of Gen Z and 37% of millennials would make a BNPL payment in 2022, compared to 23% of Gen X and 9.4% of Baby Boomers.
While next-generation payment approaches such as digital wallets and BNPL plans have emerged more slowly in healthcare compared with other industries, these options will continue to grow in popularity as patients increasingly expect their healthcare providers to accept the same payment methods they use with other merchants.
Patients are increasingly prioritizing greater security during the overall digital healthcare experience. One notable example of this trend is payment card tokenization, a process of storing consumers’ payment data for future use for greater ease and simplicity. Tokenization replaces cardholder data with a unique identifier known as a “token,” which allows medical practices to securely process patient payments without storing sensitive payment information on their own servers.
Patients then gain the ability to pay balances using a “card-on-file” option without needing to present their physical card to the provider. Additionally, many leading payment platforms offer an account updater service, which enables merchants to ensure the card is up-to-date before attempting to take payment, reducing declines and improving payment collections.
As digital tools proliferate across other industries and improve the overall customer experience, healthcare patients will expect the same from their providers. Patients want it all, and providers want to give their patients the most positive experience possible.
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