In this episode, we’re pleased to welcome Tom Furr, CEO and Founder of PatientPay, to discuss when national financial stressors affect consumer payments.Learn how to listen to The Hospital Finance Podcast® on your mobile device.
Highlights of this episode include:
- Learn more about PatientPay
- The nation’s debt ceiling is rising, how that affects consumers
- What providers can do to prevent finance stressors from affecting payments
- Tips for healthcare finance executives
Kelly Wisness: Hi, this is Kelly Wisness. Welcome back to the award-winning Hospital Finance Podcast. We’re pleased to welcome Tom Furr. Tom is the CEO and founder of PatientPay. The leading patient payments partner for acute ambulatory and specialty care organizations. Prior to founding PatientPay, Tom was the CSO, COO, and board member at MobileSmith Health. He was also a co-founder and president of Kinetics Inc., an early online commerce provider for small businesses with partners such as Wells Fargo, First Union, and Netscape. In this episode, we’re discussing when national financial stressors affect consumer payment. Thank you for joining us today, Tom.
Tom Furr: Kelly, thanks for having me on.
Kelly: Well, let’s jump in. So please tell us more about yourself and PatientPay.
Tom: Yeah. So PatientPay…well, let me tell you about myself first. As you alluded to, I come from the payments industry and actually was spending some time with a good friend of mine in healthcare and he tried to explain the patient payment side of the business, and outside of healthcare payments are fairly easy, right? You’re at a restaurant, you know what it’s going to cost, you get a bill at the end of your meal, you pay it, and you move on. And in healthcare, it’s a much more complex process. And so, it actually starts with the insurance companies negotiating with the medical group or the hospital or whoever it is, the provider, on what they’re going to allow them to charge a patient. So, before you even show up, there’s a price tag there, but you probably don’t know much about it. And then after you go and have a procedure, or you meet with a provider, the provider submits a claim to the insurance company, the insurance company, then determines, again, what is the allowed amount? Based on your insurance plan, do you have a high deductible plan or not? And based on all that, what are they going to pay versus what the patient needs to pay? And after all of that complexity and time, after seeing a provider, you then determine, or the provider’s office does determine this is how much the patient be to pay. And historically, what has happened is most provider groups out there will send a paper statement, you’ll get that at some point, normally weeks, sometimes months after you have your procedure, you will go to a traditional kind of portal or mail it back to pay. And after a lot of paper statements and a lot of times passed, the patient hopefully wound up paying their bill.
And so PatientPay was started and founded to deliver the type solutions that are more acceptable outside of healthcare. And so, our designers have come from Google and Yahoo. And our tech people have designed platforms that enable payments to be made easily and efficiently. And so, what we have had to build is an infrastructure that enables us to take all this complex data, simplify it so people outside of healthcare can understand it. And then allow them easy ways to pay their bills. And that could be maybe in full. It could be they pay their bill once their pay role is processed, right? The day after that. It could be they have to set it up on a payment plan because they need to be able to pay maybe an installment because they have an HSA card and there’s only a certain amount of dollars that get put on that HSA card each month. Or they don’t have all the money in their bank account right then. And so they will pay it over a period of time that meets their needs. And so it’s a very complex process in the healthcare payments space, just to figure out what you owe, and then you’ve got to help patients pay their bills in an easy-to-use manner that accommodates their ability to pay.
And so, I’ve been working on this for about 10 years. And I have very good results with our patients that we work with. We will normally get, give or take, 70% of our payments come from a mobile device. About 29% come from desktop and about 1% from the tablets. Once patients log into our platform, 45% of the time they’ll follow through with a payment. So, we make it very easy to understand what you owe to validate it against your ELB from your payer, and then to be able to pay it. And so we’ve had very good success with that. And continue to get better at it. But right now, collection rates in healthcare, quite frankly, are very low. In the acute space, they can be single digits. In some of the sort of hospitalist areas, that would be like radiology and anesthesiology, they can be in the teens. So, for every dollar that’s billed to a patient, they’ll collect 16 – 18% of that. And even verticals like physical therapy, occupational therapy, they’re in the 30 – 40% collection, right?
So, there’s a lot of opportunity to offer a better solution to patients. There’s a lot of opportunity to collect more dollars from patients. And more importantly, to have a good experience. So, the patient is happy with not only their healthcare, but also the payment process that goes behind it. And there’s lots of studies out there that show the patient will go to a hospital, they’ll have great experience, great care, good food, good facilities, and then they get their bill and the whole experience just evaporates because it’s such a terrible payment experience on the back end. And so, we really want to focus on having a good experience on the back end so that that can match sort of the experience on the front end. Long explanation, I hope it wasn’t too long.
Kelly: No, that makes a lot of sense, and it’s very interesting. Those stats were staggering. The nation’s debt ceiling is rising. What trickle down effects does that have on the average consumer?
Tom: Well, the good thing is, there’s a low unemployment rate, right? And so people are working. People are going to see their provider. Now, we can’t control costs, but obviously, healthcare needs to continue to help out and keep costs as affordable as possible. But we can help them on the back end and help them to collect more from a provider group, but also, from a patient perspective, to pay the bill to accommodate their needs. And as I mentioned, one of the big things that we focus on are payment plans so that we can help them to meet the obligation they need to meet to pay their bill, but also to meet it within their financial capability. And we have very high take up rates for payment plans for that very purpose. And again, it’s not that someone can’t afford it. They might have an HSA card where, in the payments world, it’s referred to a pre-paid card like your debit card. So, their business might only put $500 a month on it or $1,000 a month on it. And if you have a big bill, it might take a few months to pay it. So, we try and meet them where they’re comfortable in being able to pay the bill.
Kelly: Fantastic. So, patients being hesitant to seek care and pay down medical debt will obviously have a big impact on providers. What can providers do to prevent finance stressors from affecting payments and their bottom line?
Tom: Well, Kelly, we feel strongly and the folks we work with feel strongly that you need to prepare the patient before they arrive to address some of these issues. And quite frankly, it’s like taking your car in to be fixed, right? Your mechanics can say, well, I think it’s between X and Y because we have to do X and Y, it could be a little bit more, a little bit less, but at least be prepared that it’s going to cost in this range. And we’re strong believers of doing the same in healthcare so that a patient can come in and be prepared. They can be prepared to set up a payment plan. They can be prepared to pay it all. But at least there’s not a shock value of getting a bill months later that can be thousands of dollars, which is a very big bill to get and particularly when you’re not expecting it. And so to be able to have those conversations on the front end, be able to maybe get them set up on a payment plan early in the process, it gives them the comfort of, okay, I can prepare both for my health going into it, getting ready, but also financially so that they come out with hopefully in a better shape from a health perspective. And a better shape prepared for the financial cost of doing it. And it is, we feel very, very important for everyone, in particular for those larger dollar type tickets to know all of this on the front end of getting ready to have a procedure or seeing a doctor. We work within the fertility space, and so those bills can be very large, but at least the folks going into it understand this is what my sort of cost is going to be. So definitely very important to catch it on the front end.
Kelly: Completely agree. I’ve been there before, and it’s not fun when you get that surprise bill. So, it’s nice to see things moving in a positive direction. How can healthcare executives engage patients in making the right moves for managing the cost of their care? And are there any tips you can share with the healthcare finance executives in our audience?
Tom: Well, there’s a couple of things. We’re firm believers at PatientPay that the patients want to pay their obligations. They want to get healthcare done that is needed, but there’s a couple of things that you have to do. You have to educate them on the front end that healthcare is different than it is in everything else you do in life. As I was just saying. They’ll get an estimate, but it could vary from X to Y, but to walk them through the process, this is how it works. We kind of think this is what’s going to cost us what your insurance is going to do it. Until we go to your insurance company and they adjudicate the claim, we won’t know. So, if you at least set them up for success on the front end, it then gives you the ability to say, based on this estimate, we’d like to get you started on a payment plan today. If not, maybe we can get you started next month. But you need to prepare to have these dollars ready to pay your bill over the next 6, 12, maybe 24 months. I mean, we’ve got some groups that have very high-end bills, and they structure their payment plans around a length of time that can accommodate a patient to pay their bill.
So, there’s different ways to offer that help using a solution like PatientPay that you can customize a payment plan based on– that’s just assuming the patient has an HSA card, as I said before, and they get $500 a month. It’s going to be a $3,000 bill. You probably need some of those other dollars for other doctors. So why don’t we go and set up a $250 a month payment plan? We don’t take all of your dollars you get every month, but we take some of them and we’ll put that together as a 12-month plan so that you can pay this bill, but also have money for other providers that you might need to be meeting with. So, it’s those type conversations on the front end that I think is mission critical. Just, again, getting back to the complexity of the industry and some of the high costs that are charged for the procedures that have to happen.
Kelly: Those are some great tips. Thank you. And is there anything else you want to add to our conversation today?
Tom: Well, I think that, at this point, the healthcare industry is realizing that the patient portion of the bill is a big part of their need to collect. When we first got into this, give or take 10 years ago, the patient portion of the bill was 5%, maybe 6% of total billings and insurance covered everything else. Well, now it’s 20, 30% of what they have to collect. And with the continued cost increasing for labor, the continued increase of everything else with inflation going up, it’s very important for medical groups, hospitals, you name it in the healthcare industry, to have a good experience so that they can collect these dollars from patients and give them the ability to get care, have a good experience, but also pay their bill. Because if you don’t pay your bill as a patient, the medical group still has to pay for salaries and rent and all this other stuff. And if they can’t pay for that, then that means they have trouble surviving and no one wants their doctor to go out of business. So, I think it’s a good time for companies like PatientPay to bridge the gap from this really complex backend billing process to simplify it. And then to bridge the gap of these huge bills that come at you, how am I going to pay them? Because I need to pay them. I just don’t know how I’m going to do it. And it’s been driving our business pretty rapidly since COVID, quite frankly, and we expect that trend to continue because patient balances are continuing to grow year over year. So, it’s definitely a growing challenge that needs to be met based on the kind of more traditional antiquated tools that are out there right now.
Kelly: Completely agree. Thank you, Tom. And thank you so much for joining us today and for sharing your knowledge and perspectives on this very important and pressing topic.
Tom: Well, Kelly, thank you for having me. And hopefully, we’ll speak again soon.
Kelly: Yes, and if a listener wants to learn more or contact you to discuss this topic further, how best can they do that?
Tom: Yeah, there’s lots of ways. So, our website is https://www.patientpay.com/. My email is email@example.com. And I’m out on LinkedIn as well. So, feel free to Google me at Tom Furr at PatientPay and I’m sure I’ll pop up there in LinkedIn. So, I’d love to hear from anyone that would like to learn more about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.
Kelly: Fantastic. Thank you for sharing that. And thank you all for joining us for this episode of The Hospital Finance Podcast. Until next time.
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