Recurring Payments: Why They Are Vital to Your Practice

In a recent Health Practice FYI  it was noted how more and more patients are being asked to pay for their office visits, and that patient healthcare costs have increased 29.4 percent since 2015. What does this mean for you and your medical or dental practice? First, it means patients will increasingly look for clarity in regards to how much they owe for services rendered. Second, they want it to be easy to make payments.  

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Recurring Payments: Why They Are Vital to Your Practice

Apr 16, 2018

Recurring Payments: Why They Are Vital to Your Practice

In a recent Health Practice FYI  it was noted how more and more patients are being asked to pay for their office visits, and that patient healthcare costs have increased 29.4 percent since 2015. What does this mean for you and your medical or dental practice? First, it means patients will increasingly look for clarity in regards to how much they owe for services rendered. Second, they want it to be easy to make payments.

According to the Patient Payment Check-Up™—a 2017 national survey of more than 1,000 patients and 500 providers—fewer than 25 percent of patients currently request cost estimates, but more than half say they will ask for one in the future. Patients also expressed frustration about the old-fashioned practice of getting billed by snail mail.

According to the survey, more than 89 percent of providers are still billing via paper statements sent through the mail. Never mind that more than half of all patients surveyed said they would prefer to be billed electronically. Worse, more than half of the providers reported that it takes patients more than three months to pay in full.

Moreover, 78 percent of patients said they would provide a credit or debit card to pay a balance of less than $200, but despite the fact that providers recognize the benefits of having a credit card on file (CCOF), a mere 20 percent of providers offer a CCOF option.

Clearly, there’s an opportunity here for practices to save money and increase revenue, while at the same time improve a patient’s satisfaction. The answer is: accepting credit cards at your practice and offering recurring payment functionality.

How to Set up Recurring Payments

As noted on the TSYS site , this functionality allows a medical or dental practice to store patient information in a ‘patient wallet’ that can be associated with a customizable profile, with payment terms agreed upon by the practice and patient.

To set up a recurring payment, a front office staffer enters the specified charge and asks the patient the frequency they would like to pay (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) and the payment gateway does the rest. The patient’s credit or debit card is charged and a receipt is emailed to them. Just be sure the patient has input into the billing frequency and their payment date.

It’s that simple—and a great solution, particularly in cases where the patient is receiving services on a regular schedule or doesn’t have the ability to pay the amount due in full and would like to spread the payments over time. And since a patient’s bill is paid automatically (eliminating the need to write and send a check, for example), patient satisfaction is likely to increase.

Five Benefits of Recurring Payments

The potential benefits of offering recurring payments at your practice are even more substantial than those that accrue to your patients.

  1. It maximizes the chance of prompt payment and ensures steady cash flow.
  2. Fewer missed or delayed payments to follow up on.
  3. It reduces expenses associated with collections.
  4. It allows you to consolidate all of your payments on a single platform, including one-time payments. 
  5. Last but not least, the reduction in manual processes makes the payment process faster and less error prone.

This will result in fewer payment and billing related issues that need to be brought to your attention by office staff, which in turn, should allow you to spend more time seeing patients.

This is particularly relevant today because according to Medical Economics, the third greatest challenge among the top 10 challenges facing physicians in 2018  is “the growing number of uncompensated tasks.” That is, “as much as 20% of the workday is spent grinding through tasks such as prior authorizations, EHR data entry and non-clinical paperwork. This busywork costs physicians at least $50,000 in lost revenue annually, says Joseph Valenti, MD, a board member of the Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for practicing physicians.”

Of course, inefficient billing and payment practices have the potential to add to that list of distractions. So while “it’s impossible to entirely eliminate uncompensated tasks from the daily schedule,” elaborates Medical Economics, “practices can minimize the disruptions they cause and redirect physician efforts toward revenue-generating work.”

And recurring payments is a great place to start.

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