Healthcare is expensive. Because care providers understand that, most offer payment plans to help patients manage their costs. But these organizations also have bills and staff to pay, and the impact of late payments on revenue cycles can be significant.
Over the past nine years, consumer healthcare costs for a family of four have risen 69 percent in the form of higher copays and deductibles, according to CNBC. Not only is this a burden for families, but it also often puts physicians' offices in the uncomfortable position of acting as debt collectors.
But with the arrival of SMS alerts for healthcare organizations comes the ability to efficiently communicate with patients about upcoming or delayed payments. What makes text messaging an appropriate and effective communication tool for preventing late payments, and how can physicians' offices and other care providers automate this process?
An RX for SMS APIs
Debt collection isn't generally taught in medical schools, but as patients increasingly become their primary payers, physicians and their staff members must become better at helping people anticipate, manage, and track their healthcare costs. According to Becker's Hospital CFO Report, 61 percent of patients find their medical bills confusing, with almost 49 percent calling the amount they finally owed "a surprise."
To solve these problems, healthcare organizations are increasingly looking to communications technology for solutions to automate and streamline payment-collection processes. SMS alerts play a key role by enabling providers to send billing reminders without overtaxing staff or overwhelming patients, all through the communication channel that many patients are most comfortable using.
How does it work? At the most basic level, text message APIs can be integrated into an organization's phone system so that staff can send or schedule SMS alerts directly from the office or call center. SMS APIs can also be integrated with other cloud-based software, including many CRM, marketing, and bookkeeping solutions, allowing providers to further automate and personalize payment reminders and other patient communications.
In most cases, patients prefer a personal touch and human communication. That said, bill collecting isn't always one of those cases.
4 Benefits of SMS Alerts for Payment Plans
How do text messages help with preventing late payments? SMS alerts are:
Immediate: This means they're hard to ignore. Emails often get lost in the sea of marketing messages that comprise most people's personal inboxes. Paper bills tend to get lost on desks, amid stacks of other bills and even more marketing messages. But SMS alerts pop up where people look the most — their smartphone screens. Some patients still might be unable to pay, but they won't simply forget to do so.
Convenient: Patients don't have to stop what they're doing to answer the phone or go searching for the bill in their mailbox or inbox. Instead, they get a monthly text reminder of exactly what they owe and when. Better yet, providers can enable forgetful patients to pay while they've got their attention by including a link directly to the patient portal or payment website. Providers can also allow patients to authorize payments using short codes ("Reply YES if you would like us to charge your card on file," for instance).
Efficient: Administrative staff don't have to spend time calling, emailing, or mailing billing statements. With proper integration, the use of SMS alerts can even be automated to send reminders in advance, when the bill is due, and if and when it's late. This helps keep staff focused on helping patients and spares them some potentially uncomfortable conversations.
Impersonal: In most cases, patients prefer a personal touch and human communication. That said, bill collecting isn't always one of those cases, especially when the bill is late because the patient can't afford to pay it yet. Explaining that to a live person embarrasses some people, so they duck phone calls from organizations they owe. However, they might respond to a text message asking them to schedule a payment online or respond with a date when they'll be able to pay. The money may still come in late, but at least the provider knows when to expect it.
Simply put, there's a lot to love about SMS billing for healthcare providers. Not only does the doctor get paid, but the patient has an easy reminder right at their fingertips without feeling harassed or hassled. Unlike a collections call, most patients will appreciate the reminder.