COVID-19 is driving a giant leap forward for virtual care delivery and healthcare payments digitization. Knowing how patient preferences and behaviors are evolving in response to these changes can help providers enable faster payment collection and improve the patient financial experience.
Our organization wanted to develop a better understanding of how the landscape has changed, so we surveyed over 1000 U.S. healthcare consumers in February. We just released the results in our third-annual Healthcare Payments Insight Report, and the data shows it’s all about putting the patient digital experience first.
Curious about what consumer demands will endure post-pandemic? Here, we break down the top trends from our report and what they mean for healthcare providers going forward.
Email is old school — patients want newer digital payment options
While many healthcare providers continue to send medical bills via snail mail, an increasing percentage of consumers want the same seamless, convenient and modern payment options available in most other industries. Expecting the smooth “Amazon experience,” patients want it to be as quick and easy to pay for a healthcare bill as it is to order a pair of sneakers online.
When asked how their provider could modernize payments (respondents could select more than one), the top answer was online patient portal (37%), followed by mobile app (32%), contactless mobile wallets (24%), pay by text (20%) and pay by scanning QR code (17%). Unsurprisingly, we did notice that preference for digital payments was related to age, with younger consumers favoring options like mobile wallets and pay by text.
Contactless is king — patients want a safer in-office experience
Gone are the days of touching items in doctors’ offices without thought as to who came before us. Today, patients are concerned about hygiene and sanitation — and that includes payment terminals. This was clear in our survey, which revealed that 76% of healthcare consumers are worried about payment device cleanliness.
These health concerns are fast-tracking consumer adoption of contactless payment methods that eliminate touchpoints, something we explore further in a recent whitepaper. And this trend appears to be here to stay, as an April 2020 MasterCard survey reports 74% of consumers state they will continue to use contactless post-pandemic.
For providers, this means that investing in contactless payment acceptance should be a top priority. Besides making transactions safer for patients and staff, our survey also found that providers with contactless payment options are viewed more favorably by 58% of consumers. In fact, the number-one payment option patients want providers to offer is contactless debit and credit.
Control is key — Patients want ways to manage expenses
A concerning finding from our report is that affordability continues to be a challenge especially with the pandemic affecting employment, household finances and insurance coverage. As a result, patients are eager for payment options that help them manage medical expenses, with 59% likely requiring recurring bill payments. Nearly half of the patients surveyed (46%) are likely to take advantage of a prompt-pay discount if they can’t afford the service.
Another way patients would like to experience more control over their healthcare finances is by staying up to date on how much they owe and when payments are due. Consistent with their overall preference for digital payment methods, patients are turning to online tools to stay informed.
Interactive voice response (IVR) is also a popular choice for keeping track of expenses, with 37% saying IVR is good for payment reminders and 41% saying they would use IVR to pay bills and find balance information. Meanwhile, 31% of patients say they pay medical bills faster when notified by text or email.
Improving the patient financial experience
These trends present exciting opportunities for healthcare organizations to make it safer, easier and more convenient for patients to pay for care while also encouraging faster bill collection. To learn more about how the latest trends will impact your organization and find details on our methodology, read our full 2021 Healthcare Insight Report.
Vice President, Head of Healthcare Payments
U.S. Bank Payment Solutions