The high cost of healthcare in the United States is at least partially due to its reliance on paper products. Some sources estimate that the healthcare industry spends as much as $300 billion per year on paper, providing a strong incentive for eliminating this expense. A paperless medical billing process provides other benefits such as greater patient satisfaction, higher retention rates and increased payment rates, especially for online payments. It also reduces collection costs, which traditionally requires a particularly large amount of paper.
Going paperless presents a challenge for all medical practices, regardless of their size or type. Practices must make fundamental changes to their workflow, invest in new technology and retrain employees. These changes are especially dramatic for billing services that manage clients with complex billing requirements. However, the payment process offers several areas for easing the transition to paperless billing, including the following:
- Web portals
- Paper checks
- Omnichannel payments
Practitioners should ensure they have an online portal that allows patients to manage their healthcare payments, including an option to receive statements via email. They should also provide patients with the link for the portal at every opportunity, including office sign-in, statements and email communications. The patient portal link should be accompanied by messages promoting the convenience of managing accounts via the portal and the resulting reduction in paperwork.
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The process of transitioning from paper statements and payments to email statements and online payments eliminates many uses of paper. Envelopes and postage represent a major expense in paper billing, as they often cost more than the stationery itself. This is especially true when a paper statement includes a remittance envelope with prepaid postage. Many practices ease into completely paperless billing by replacing the remittance envelope with instructions for receiving bills via email and making online payments.
The Trends in Healthcare Payments Sixth Annual Report surveyed healthcare providers for their payment preferences in 2015. Only 14 percent of those respondents indicated a preference for payments by paper checks, and only two percent preferred virtual card payments. Many providers now require electronic fund transfers (EFTs) from all of their patients without exception. They can also reduce paperwork by sending their explanation of benefits (EOBs) to patients in electronic format.
Healthcare practices often miss out on an opportunity to minimize paper usage by only offering the options of online or mailed payments. An omnichannel approach can help accomplish this goal in addition to increasing payment rates by allowing patients to make healthcare payments in places where they’re already making payments to other businesses. For example, many patients use their bank or health plan portal to make payments, which frequently support smartphones and interactive voice response (IVR). Increasing the number of payment options doesn’t require a practice to compromise its commitment to paperless billing, because many of these options still promote self-service.
An incentive plan can be a highly effective method of facilitating paperless billing, since employee buy-in is a key requirement for this process. A contest that encourages original thinking on ways to eliminate paperwork can help a practice achieve its goals towards paperless billing while creating a sense of fun in the workplace. The specific framework of the contest may be highly variable, although it should include a means of tracking progress and highlighting success. Recognition of a winner and a reward are also essential features of a successful contest.
The expense of paper billing creates a strong incentive for a paperless approach. A medical billing service such as M-Scribe Technologies, LLC can also handle any problems that your back office may be having with other billing and coding issues. Call us at 770-666-0470 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about how we can help you meet your practice’s needs.