It’s no surprise that healthcare is doubling down on software investments for healthcare revenue cycle, including software with an AI component, like predictive analytics. What’s unique is that right-now value from AI in revenue cycle is happening outside the walls of a healthcare facility or medical practice. In fact, it’s originating from the device patients use most: their smartphone.
For specialty groups in particular, the ability to successfully engage patients in their financial responsibility for care can significantly strengthen financial stability and their ability to invest in new services, equipment, staff development and more. That’s especially true for rehabilitative therapy groups, where patients may have two to three visits per week, generating a claim for each appointment.
At a time when many consumers say they pay medical bills faster when they receive payment requests digitally—especially when these requests come by text (49%, according to a recent U.S. Bank survey)—leading specialty groups are exploring mobile payment strategies with an AI component. The best strategies incorporate a data-informed approach that is grounded in predictive analytics.
Applying Data Science to Healthcare Mobile Pay
The value of digital payment for medical expenses extends beyond improved cash flow, although that’s certainly a key consideration. The U.S. Bank survey indicates consumers want mobile options for medical payment. Part of the attraction lies in the convenience of a digital approach, which gives consumers the ability to pay their bill anytime, anywhere, just as they have become accustomed to paying for retail purchases.
The appeal of mobile goes beyond payment. More than half of consumers (56%) also would be comfortable resolving billing questions via live text chat or video chat.
But leading specialty groups go beyond a plug-and-play, text notification-based mobile payment approach. They also incorporate predictive analytics, exploring aspects of patient financial engagement such as:
- The patient’s past history of medical payment
- The likelihood that a patient will pay their bill—and the speed with which the patient is likely to do so
- The individual’s communication preferences—critical given that some patients still prefer paper-based payment
They also incorporate behavioral science techniques in crafting the messaging associated with text-to-pay, down to the first words a patient sees on the screen. For example, one specialty practice decreased inbound customer services calls from 15% to 12% when it analyzed consumers’ most frequently asked questions and sought to answer these questions on the first screen patients see when they log onto the payment site.
The easier it is to take action, the faster consumers will pay their bill—sometimes, within seconds. That was the case when Integrated Rehabilitation Group (IRG), a 40-location physical therapy group based in the Northwest, implemented a text-to-pay solution at the start of 2023.
Making the Right Moves for Mobile Pay
At the time, IRG was seeking a way to stay ahead of the cash flow challenges specialty groups typically face at the start of a new year, when healthcare deductibles and out-of-pocket limits reset and most healthcare expenses shift to patient responsibility. It’s a period when patients tend to take more time to pay their medical bills. But the pandemic also had added extra financial stress for IRG. What used to be a 12% no-show rate had grown to 20%. Also distressing: overall volumes had been slow to return to pre-pandemic levels.
As CFO for IRG, I knew the results other specialty groups had experienced, with 43% of patients who click on a payment link received via text going on to pay their bill. With pent-up demand for therapy, we knew a payment rate like this not only would help us overcome sluggish cash flow at the beginning of the year, but also set us up for success over the long term.
What we didn’t expect is that we would begin to receive payments within minutes of turning on our digital payment function—or that our rate of payment, at 60%, would surpass the average experience by other groups. It’s a rate of return that helps position us to open new clinics, expanding our footprint to meet the increased demand for rehabilitation services, with four new clinics opened in 2023 alone. It has also empowered us to introduce new services, such as rehabilitation for patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries, concussions, and cognitive challenges.
Within months, IRG’s cash collections doubled—and they’ve remained at this level for the past eight months. We’re seeing patients pay sooner and with fewer questions, freeing staff to focus on more value-added activities, such as patient education.
Establishing the Foundation for a Mobile-Smart Approach
As providers of all types cite revenue cycle management as an area of increased focus, performing due diligence to determine what works—and what works better than most—is essential to capture optimal value. In addition to taking a data-based approach to digital payment, key steps that set the stage for success around mobile pay at IRG include the following.
Sending the right communication at the right time—and in the right format. It’s not good enough to simply have the mechanism to send a text bill. To avoid digital fatigue, specialty groups must be careful not to overload consumers with text reminders around medical payment. Look for a mobile payment provider that uses a Dunning engine to determine when, how and what to communicate to make the greatest impact.
For example, some physician groups wait seven days to send an electronic reminder. They might also send a paper statement at this point to get a feel for how patients wish to receive communications around payment—and use this data to inform future communications. Engaging patients through their preferred method adds a level of personalization that drives higher conversion rates and patient satisfaction.
Creating a seamless mobile payment experience. The best mobile payment functionality makes it easy for consumers to navigate from a text to their bill, without having to log onto a portal. This enables them to pay their bill with just a couple clicks. IRG learned the value of seamless navigation from its previous efforts to incorporate online bill pay on the therapy group’s website. While a link for online bill pay existed, it wasn’t easy to find—and consequently, online payment rates were low.
Integrating mobile payment with the specialty group’s electronic medical record system. This is the only way to be sure the amount patients see is accurate—and that’s vital to establishing trust and, ultimately, securing engagement. At IRG, mobile payment integrates with a practice management system that is specially designed for rehabilitative therapy practices.
About Janet Carbary