There are many reasons to become a payment facilitator, not the least of which is the revenue stream it can provide. But revenue alone likely isn’t enough. Celine Kaiser, vice president of payments at healthcare PF Modernizing Medicine, thinks every software provider should carefully consider one question before it goes down the path of becoming a PF: What is the problem you want to solve?
And if you’ve ever been a patient, you have insight into one of Modernizing Medicine’s own answers to that question: patient experience.
“Paying for healthcare is not like when you go to buy a pair of shoes, which is a one-time event, or when you go to a restaurant to get some food and you pay with your credit card,” Kaiser said.
Instead, she said, you likely pay your healthcare provider across multiple instances and in multiple ways. For a surgical procedure, you might prepay or make installment payments. You could take care of a copay during an office visit. And you’re likely to be billed for any remaining balance after insurance pays its share.
As a patient, you’re also at the mercy of the provider’s systems when it comes to making those payments. That might mean using a card at the office or trying to remember to mail a check in response to a statement.
Modernizing Medicine added payments when it expanded beyond its original electronic health record (EHR) capabilities to launch practice management software three years ago. As it grew its services, the company realized it had the opportunity to improve that experience.
“We really wanted to provide the patient with tools and technology that they are used to using when they go on Amazon or pay within the Starbucks app,” Kaiser said.
Those tools include in-office contactless and wallet payments as well as options such as text to pay, quick payments online and payment acceptance through the patient portal.
“We bring out the technology that we are all used to using day to day, but are not really used to using at our medical providers, so that you can pay your bill at your convenience, when you want, how you want,” she said.
Complex billing and payment processes aren’t only a pain point that the company is solving for patients. They also contribute to inefficiency for the provider, another major problem Modernizing Medicine sought to solve as the company’s services grew.
For example, a practice that uses a third-party payment solution that is not integrated to its software has to reconcile payments reporting with its patient ledger, a cumbersome process that creates additional expense for the practice, Kaiser said.
And if a patient has an open balance that the practice needs to collect after a visit, they will have to create a patient statement, mail it to the patient and wait for payment.
“It’s easy to collect money when the patient is in front of you; how do you collect payment when they’re gone?” Kaiser asked.
Modernizing Medicine has sought to streamline healthcare providers’ processes by using automation to help perform tasks that were previously manual and by integrating payments with their software. With an integrated platform, the company can issue a patient statement by email, link directly to a payment portal and accept payment, dramatically shortening the time it takes a practice to collect on open balances.
The path to solving those problems has been an evolution, however. When the company originally launched its payment capabilities, it integrated its software with a handful of ISOs to manage payment acceptance.
By owning the payment process as a PF instead, Kaiser said, the company has been able to do a better job both providing better customer service for practices that call with payment issues and creating the user experience they wanted.
“When we implement a new practice, there is no discussion about how the software is ready, but payments are not ready. We do it all at the same time. We have them running their business and collecting patient payments, and they don’t have to call someone else for help,” she said.
Since launching its payment facilitator business, Modernizing Medicine has received positive feedback from its provider customers. The company regularly engages with its customers as part of its product development process, Kaiser said. and they have found that the payment function is successfully meeting their needs.
“If you want to be successful launching your payment facilitator, you really need to think through why you want to do it,” she said.
“Why do you want to be in payments? What are you going to do better than if someone else handled the payments for you?”