Technology and Behavioral Changes Needed to Cut Paper Out of Healthcare – PYMNTS.com

There’s a high probability that even the most digitally savvy consumers still receive an explanation of benefits (EOB) letter between actual bills for medical services rendered. That’s going to be with us for a while yet, but there’s a light at the end of that tunnel, and it’s a device screen.
The preponderance of paper in healthcare billing and payments is deeply engrained among patients and providers three years after telemedicine became commonplace. Still, major players are working to help create a new mindset around the healthcare payment experience.
“I say the last impression is the lasting impression,” Jeff Lin, president of InstaMed, a J.P. Morgan company, and global co-head of healthcare payments at J.P. Morgan, told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster. “It is no surprise that when we have that gap and talk to consumers about this, 42% of consumers will switch to a different provider based on payment experience.”
Lin called healthcare billing and payments today “nuanced” in that there’s a certainty when paying a paper invoice with a check, but people increasingly crave better options.
“There’s a famous fast-food chain out there that had an adage of ‘have it your way.’ Part of that is that healthcare has to have that same mentality,” he said, meaning that in the slow pivot to digital healthcare payments, consumers want these options available, whether they use them today or next year.
Pointing to high deductibles that are a reality now, Lin said there’s “a wealth of payment options” and modes of provider-patient communication, such as digital portals. All these need to be offered (and reoffered) until consumers experience the benefits sufficiently to switch.
See also: JPMorgan Sees Healthcare Focus on Digital Key to Improving Patient Care
As this process unfolds over time, Lin joked that we’re currently stuck with a healthcare payments system that could never survive in the competitive world of retail.
“Let’s say I buy a TV, this TV that’s beautiful, but has no price tag whatsoever, and I bring home this TV and watch that TV for 30, 60, 90 days,” he said. “Then lo and behold, 90 days later, I get a bill in the mail that talks about the transistors and the microchips that make up that TV. That is healthcare payments experience personified” as it now stands.
There is positive movement as patient portals have proliferated in the past three years. Some of them are serving details never seen before, like pre-care treatment estimates and even installment plans right in the portal to make expensive procedures affordable.
Lin called that an expression of “the full continuum of setting expectations, delivering communications digitally, and paying digitally. Offering all that in a convenient way for not only the patient but also to help the staff on the backend who’s hindered by staffing shortages right now” is the technology and behavior change that J.P. Morgan sees as the future.
He added that “the estimates of cost, the visibility into the benefits of the individual — because it has to be individualized — and ensuring that you’re delivering that communication to that patient before the visit, all those things need to come together all at once to deliver a people-process-technology [benefit] to the consumer.”
It’s a consumer-first mindset still largely absent in healthcare, but a snowball effect has already begun. Lin said he believes it’s now incumbent on providers to engage consumers at every touchpoint, ensuring they’re enrolling in digital communications, having basic info like the correct email address, offering options like SMS text messaging, and providing digital payment choices.
“All those things need to be thought through in the mindset of how the consumer is going to be interacting with my business, and what are the gaps to make my systems digital so you can make that experience digital for the consumer,” he said.
Read also: NextGen Healthcare Expands InstaMed Partnership
Electronic medical records (EMR) are necessary to modernize healthcare payments, and innovation around that highly sensitive data is powering the new experiences Lin described.
Here again, there’s a checklist that providers and payment partners need to complete.
“Who’s my EMR [system] and my accounting system that’s tied into it?” he said. “Do I have the capabilities on the backend? Who’s my partner on payment to deliver this end-to-end lifecycle? How can I make sure that all these systems and all these partners are working closely together and not creating more work for my staff” or the patients being treated?
Saying that things like pre-care estimates once seemed dreamlike, Lin explained his view is that these options have “improved significantly,” as have systems to support the value chain from scheduling to bill presentment to payment.
“We’re making strides,” he said. “We’re not there yet, but I do think I see positive momentum as I look across the board.”
As these considerations relate to patient outcomes, he said he sees a better billing and payments experience as part of a redefinition of outcomes in healthcare, not just in the treatment delivered but in the overall patient experience from start to finish.
“There is a broad spectrum of ways to get access to care that I think is profound for patients,” he said. “You’ll start seeing this with the Internet of Things, health wearables, and so on. It is not going to be the annual visit, it’s going to be every day I’m wearing something” that’s tracking health states, reinventing the notion of “preventative care” entirely.
Payments are part of it, as he added that the new healthcare paradigm of everyday tracking enables automation use cases and the ability to personalize the experience, including payments.
His closing thoughts on the presence of paper? As more digital-first millennials hit the age where chronic health problems become a fact of life, they’ll carry that mindset to the doctor’s office and use digital options whenever offered, organically cutting the paper dependence.
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