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Q&A: How small medical practices can overcome payment problems (Includes interview)

For small businesses, such as medical practices, dealing with payments in a fast and cost-effective manner can be challenging. The answer rests with digital solutions. Looking into how medical practices can reform, Ralph Dangelmaier, CEO of payment processing platform, BlueSnap, discusses advice for medical practices to consider. This is especially for those services who may not have the resources to handle complex transactions like chain practices or major hospitals have.

Digital Journal: How important are digital payments in healthcare during the COVID-19 era?

Ralph Dangelmaier: COVID-19 has impacted every part of our lives and healthcare is no exception. People are looking to reduce the number of unnecessary interactions they are making – no one wants to physically touch anything to pay anymore. When it comes to healthcare, there are a number of payment points that present a challenge: paying co-pays with cards or cash before office visits, handling paper invoices and writing checks – all these high-touch payment points now make people feel unsafe. This is why digital payments have become very important for healthcare.

Lately, I’ve been talking about Corona-Free Payments. This idea centers around removing the physical interactions and manual processes related to payments and determining which interactions can be changed to contactless or digital. When healthcare embraces digital payments, whether that be with methods like text-to-pay, card on file or through electronic invoicing and payments, they remove those high-touch payment points and in turn make patients feel safer. But even beyond the safety factor, when healthcare providers offer digital payments, they are offering payment methods that consumers have grown to expect from other industries.

Updating the traditional paper invoice model, common with healthcare providers, with digital payments helps both the patients and the providers. It eliminates a very time-consuming manual process for healthcare providers, removes friction and makes it easier for patients to pay and in turn gets the providers their money quicker. This is a huge improvement when you consider many providers sell off their 60- or 90-day past due balances, losing revenue in the process.

DJ: What are the challenges healthcare companies face setting up digital payments?

Dangelmaier: If a healthcare company’s only experience is with taking in-person payments and issuing paper invoices, chances are their billing system does not have the necessary capabilities or integrations to enable digital payments.

This leaves the healthcare company to create the workflows themselves to reduce payment friction for patients. This process requires the knowledge to integrate new payment options, automate the accounts receivable process or create a patient portal to manage payments and outstanding balances. The healthcare company is forced to act as a system integrator to connect multiple systems to create a digital payment experience.

DJ: Why do companies struggle to streamline complex patient payment transactions?

Dangelmaier:Healthcare providers are scrambling to quickly adopt digital payment capabilities to better serve their patients. In some cases, this means working across multiple providers to facilitate a digital payment experience which can lead to inconsistent patient experiences and cause headaches for the practice with disparate reporting and reconciliation functions – overall making payments more complicated.

DJ: What are the solutions for this?

Dangelmaier:The pandemic has accelerated the demand for Corona-Free Payments in healthcare – working with experts in digital payments can help healthcare providers put the right solution in place. Best-in-class solutions have all the necessary capabilities built in, so there’s no additional integrations needed.

Creating a digital payment experience includes built-in capabilities such as:

Full breadth of payment types, including ewallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, ACH and cards.
Security features like tokenization and fraud monitoring.
Card-on-file capabilities so that patients can securely save their payment details for future use (like paying the next co-pay).
Accounts receivable automation, with pre-built integrations to their accounting system, digital invoices with embedded payment links and a billing portal for patients to view and pay their outstanding invoices.
Streamlined reporting so that it is easy for the healthcare provider to stay on top of their business.

DJ: What makes for an ideal digital payments solution? What are customers looking for with digital payments?

Dangelmaier:Customers are looking for ease of use, they are looking to pay healthcare providers the same way they are paying everyone else and they are looking for it to be contact-free. They want to be able to use their phone – to tap, text or scan to pay vs. having to touch a keypad, hand over their card to someone else or pay with cash. They want to receive a bill electronically and pay it the same way. It’s all about making it convenient and easy to use will keeping them safe.

For the healthcare provider, the ideal solution is one that has all the digital payment capabilities including accounts receivable automation and reporting built in – so that they don’t have to struggle with integrating multiple systems and can focus on caring for their patients.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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