This post originally appeared on Sphere.com.
In this Q&A, Vincent Martino, Chief Product Officer & Co-founder of VisitPay, talks about the impact of the partnership on the patient financial experience.
Why is it important to offer financial support to patients via their mobile devices?
Vincent Martino: Offering mobile-enabled tools to manage and self-service healthcare billing obligations has become a baseline capability for any financial engagement strategy. Demand for a text to pay solution is clear through our continual extensive consumer research. In fact, about 50% of our VisitPay platform logins today are from a mobile device with some of our clients seeing that number approach 60%.
Many variables determine how patients manage bills and the best way to engage with these patients. Because patient preferences vary so broadly, health systems need to consistently provide patient-tailored and accurate financial information across multiple channels of communication. A one-size-fits-all billing strategy lacks the flexibility and personalization required to meet people where they are in their lives.
Now that many people – and not just younger generations – manage their lives through their mobile devices, more consumers expect to be able to manage their healthcare needs anywhere, anytime, and on their own terms. Most industries, including healthcare, are investing considerable resources to reach and engage with consumers through mobile devices.
Why is Sphere the right partner for VisitPay and how can this partnership benefit health systems and their patients?
Martino: We view Sphere as a market leader in payments technology, security, and compliance. We’ve been working with Sphere for over six years to process payments securely on behalf of our health system clients. Together, we have launched a mobile payments solution called Text to Pay, which allows health systems to securely accept patient payments through text messages while integrating seamlessly with existing EMR platforms, like Epic. This solution gives patients an additional, convenient way to pay their healthcare bills.
What kind of health system can VisitPay and Sphere best serve?
Martino: Both VisitPay and Sphere are adept at serving large, multi-facility health systems. At VisitPay, we serve some of the largest health systems in the nation including Intermountain Healthcare, Texas Health Resources, Henry Ford, and Inova. These healthcare organizations typically already have a patient payment approach in place and are looking to open up new channels to collect payment easily and in a way that’s convenient for the patient. Another important aspect for our clients is that our platform is tightly integrated into their existing EMR providing ease for staff and a unified experience for patients.
How does it work and what are the key capabilities of Text to Pay?
Martino: The patient begins by opting into Text to Pay and storing a secure payment method. VisitPay monitors all billing activity and sends an automated notification via SMS when there is a new balance to pay. The system provides a great deal of flexibility in that patients can actually pay one or more balances at a time. For example, they can pay full or partial balances, create payments over time, and set a payment threshold.
The system also has intelligence built-in and uses automated text bot responses based on what the patient is trying to do. This gives the patient on-demand information should questions emerge while making payments. These text bots also share important information that a patient might require during the process, reducing the need to contact the health system call center.
All messaging to the patient, as well as text frequency, is customizable by the health system and configurable by the user.
How does Text to Pay help health system operations?
Martino: When patients are given self-service tools, inbound calls to the health system drop significantly. Calls to make payments over the phone become less frequent, and fewer questions arise about how much patients owe since patients have insight and clarity around their bills.
An additional way Text to Pay supports health system operations is by having all payments automatically post back to the core billing system. This alleviates any need for manual intervention typically required for payment posting by revenue cycle staff. We also have created advanced proprietary logic to ensure no credit balances are created like many manual and automated payment methods do today.
What are the financial benefits for the health system offering Text to Pay?
Martino: One of the biggest advantages of Text to Pay for a health system is getting paid faster. Text to Pay is based on automated alerts to patients, who naturally pay faster because notifications come directly to their phone, the device through which they manage their everyday lives. They schedule appointments, plan their social lives, order products and services, and manage their money through their phones. We know that patients are very responsive to texts and through the Text to Pay solution they will be alerted once their balance becomes known. With patients paying faster we anticipate days AR to go down.
How hard is it for a health system to implement Text to Pay?
Martino: We’ve designed this to be very easy to implement. It’s meant to be fully complementary to existing tools so it can be plugged into any existing payment portal, including MyChart. It doesn’t disturb or disrupt any payment solution already in place today. Additionally, deployments are easy. Some basic data is needed from the health system before automated notifications to patients can begin, and in turn, we send data back to the health system for posting and reconciliation purposes. This can all be done in real-time if the health system has those capabilities.
How can Text to Pay positively affect the patient’s financial experience?
Martino: There are patients who want a fast, flexible experience and are comfortable paying from their phones. Text to Pay meets these patients where they are and in how they want to pay. We know that when patients are given options on how to pay, net promoter scores increase which in turn generates loyalty between patient and health system.
How does Text to Pay fit into and complement the broader VisitPay solution?
Martino: Text to Pay is one component of a much larger patient financial experience platform that incorporates machine learning, advanced analytics and the ability to capture data across ambulatory and acute-care billing systems. Through all our products, health systems can surface granular insights into patient preferences and expectations. This gives them the ability to present the right offer at the right time to each unique patient while adhering to the health system’s policies. This ultimately drives higher patient satisfaction along with higher payments.