Contactless payments were on the rise even before COVID-19 hit. But now, health systems should see them as essential. Consumers are increasingly wary of touching a credit card terminal that others have used, a perfect conduit for spreading germs. For consumers, text payments serve as a convenient contactless way to pay, but there are other unique benefits when this method of payment is applied in a healthcare setting.
First, A Short History of Contactless Payments and Pandemics
Although today’s consumers are used to accomplishing almost anything via an app on their phone or online, it is common practice for health systems to rely on legacy channels to communicate with patients and collect payments. Medical bills are sent by mail and prompt patients to pay by mailing a check or calling their provider’s office to make a payment over the phone. However, the pandemic is now fueling changes that have been needed for years.
Already during the coronavirus crisis, digital payments have seen a rise in popularity and use among consumers, both because this technology helps keep economies running and also because it helps people reduce direct contact with their environment. This trend will continue to gain traction with consumers over time.
Consider this: in a recent survey by Mastercard, consumers said they are using cashless often or not at all since the pandemic started in the U.S., and 77% said contactless was a “cleaner way to pay,” while overall contactless use in the U.S. has increased 150% since March 2019.
What’s more, the World Economic Forum has noted that China’s experience with the SARS epidemic in 2003 helped launch digital payments and e-commerce in the country, and now, China’s mobile payment adoption beats out other countries.
Consumers will soon be clamoring for better ways to pay their healthcare bills too, and with telehealth increasing their digital interactions, they will soon come to expect digital payment options.
Text-to-Pay and Healthcare: Security and Compliance Considerations
The first important consideration when thinking about text-to-pay is of course security and compliance: how do you make sure that payments remain secure when transitioning to digital technology use?
With many RCM team members working remotely and the recent uptick in telehealth, maintaining payment security is even more top of mind, as health system employees are not always there to physically guide patients through payment processes. For these team members to process co-pays and other payments, they typically would have to collect a patient’s credit card information over the phone. This creates PCI risk and leaves room for human error. What’s more, some patients may also question the security of their payment information.
However, text-to-pay solutions can actually reduce PCI scope and reliance on hardware because they turn a patient’s smartphone into a payment device, which can be used anywhere, and are usually what the patient is interacting with most frequently to manage other parts of their life. Text-to-pay solutions also reduce the risk of human error. For example, a health system employee could make a mistake when typing in a patient’s credit card information over the phone, but text-to-pay allows the patient to securely fill out their payment information using their own device. Also, best practice text-to-pay payment flows do not request that patients text their credit card information into their phone’s text field, but instead, prompt patients to click on a tokenized link before submitting any payment information, which is more secure.
From a compliance perspective, sending text messages to patients typically requires prior consent under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). However, TCPA consent is only a concern when texts are sent automatically. By integrating a text-to-pay solution within your team’s existing workflow, team members can manually generate a request for contactless payment via text message and prompt the patient to enter their payment information, which complies with TCPA requirements.
Text-to-Pay and Healthcare: Using Data to Create a Better Payment Experience
Implementing a text-to-pay solution also provides health systems the opportunity to enhance and streamline their data collection in a way that improves the patient experience, both before and after treatment. Better data collection now will help improve patient billing communication and payment options in the future.
To effectively capture patient data with a text solution, first consider how flexible the text-to-pay infrastructure is. A configurable texting platform can be applied at pretty much any point that requires information or action from the patient, like submitting health insurance or a driver’s license. After generating a link via text, patients can take a photo of their driver’s license or health insurance information and upload it. This makes it easier on health system employees, as they don’t have to scan or copy a physical card and can also improve claims processing.
For another use case that supports the patient before treatment, text-to-pay can be used to facilitate card-on-file payment agreements. With card-on-file, pre-service teams can communicate the patient’s estimated payment responsibility upfront and capture the patient’s consent to pay, along with their preferred payment method. This means patients can agree to pay up to a certain dollar amount or sign up for a payment plan, which automatically goes through after the patient’s insurance has processed the claim.
Data captured through text-to-pay also supports a digital-first billing experience after treatment. By capturing a patient’s email, phone, zip, date of birth, and consent at point-of-service using text-to-pay, health systems can send a digital-first bill to the patient after their scheduled visit, instead of printing and sending a paper bill via mail.
Lastly, any data collected using a text-to-pay solution should be integrated into the health system’s patient system of record or HIS for future use, both in generating bills and identifying patient payment patterns. Better data collection means AI-enabled technologies can find the patterns in mundane data like frequency of payment, timing, insurance patterns, and more. This can help identify patients who are less likely to pay at the start so that RCM teams can develop strategies to best support those patients while increasing dollars collected.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
Healthcare has long struggled to transform its patient experience to a modern, consumer-friendly model. However, as COVID-19 has shown us all, we need to innovate and rethink historical ways of conducting business. While trends like contactless payments and text-to-pay have been on the horizon even before the pandemic, we’ve now seen firsthand how important it is to be nimble and adopt new ways that health systems can operate more efficiently. Text-to-pay is a path well worth exploring.