Healthcare consumerism is on the rise , as patients report the desire to use telehealth and contactless payment options post-COVID-19. However there are disconnects between payer, provider, and consumer expectations, according to the eleventh annual Trends in Healthcare Payments Report from InstaMed.
The report explores how COVID-19 has accelerated many trends that have improved the consumer experience in healthcare, such as telehealth and contactless payment options.
The report includes quantitative data from $393 billion in healthcare payments processed on the InstaMed platform, as well qualitative, independently-gathered survey data from consumers, providers, and payers.
According to the survey, 78 percent of consumers reported that they want widespread contactless payment options to remain after the pandemic is over, and 82 percent of consumers want to make the entirety of their healthcare payments in one place.
However, while the pandemic led 36 percent of providers to adopt contactless payments for patient collections in 2020, and more than half of providers plan to change their contactless payment strategy, paper-based bills are still the most prevalent patient collection strategy.
Further illustrating the disconnect between providers and patients, the survey found that 66 percent of consumers receive medical bills in the mail, even though only 14 percent of consumers prefer to pay medical bills via mailed paper check.
Over half (56 percent) of consumers said that they would consider switching healthcare providers for a better patient financial experience, highlighting a rise in healthcare consumerism. However, 42 percent of providers wrongly believe that payment collection efforts do not have an impact on the patient experience.
“Our annual report is designed to serve as a conversation-starter regarding the current state of the U.S. healthcare payments industry,” said Bill Marvin, CEO, InstaMed and Head of Healthcare Payments and Managing Director, J.P. Morgan. “This dialogue among industry stakeholders is now more critical than ever as the COVID-19 pandemic magnified the challenges already felt by consumers due to rising healthcare costs and payment responsibility.”
“The 11th annual report shows that, while contactless experiences and utilization are growing across consumers, providers and payers, there continues to be alarming disconnect among these key stakeholders,” Marvin continued. “Prioritizing consumer demand for the digitization of healthcare payments and processes is essential as healthcare organizations look to rebuild from the financial impacts of the pandemic.”
As in-person medical encounters dropped during the pandemic, providers’ financial challenges were exacerbated by the paper and manual processes that continues to dominate payer-to-provider healthcare payments.
The report noted that while payers saw revenue growth and restored potential for the individual market during COVID-19, they must innovate provider reimbursement and member payment experiences to maintain the positive trend.
According to the survey, 84 percent of providers prefer ERA/EFT payments, however 62 percent of payers still reimburse providers with paper and fee-based options. Those unexpected fees can cause friction between the stakeholders.
What’s more, 76 percent of payers receive paper-based manual payments for premiums, but 78 percent of consumers prefer to pay their premiums online.
The survey also found that 89 percent of payers leverage or plan to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to streamline member engagement and experience. Also, almost all payers (95 percent) reported that they prioritize consumer preference for making all of their healthcare payments in one place.
COVID-19 led to a never-before-seen boom in telehealth utilization. According to the survey results, over three-quarters (76 percent) of consumers have expectations that telehealth will be a standard care access option in the future.
In order to keep up with these consumer demands, providers and payers should continue to provide innovative, contactless payment and care options post-COVID-19.