Most things seem to be going electronic. Consider email, e-commerce, e-trade, and ezines. Why not e-billing? As it turns out, paper bills are becoming an unnecessary hassle. According to the Medical Group Management Association, a medical practice must send out more than three paper bills, on average, to receive payment. That figure holds regardless of the size or specialty of the practice size. Worse, the amount of paperwork required to receive payment is growing.
The problems with obtaining payment through paper bills are not due to increased carelessness on the part of the average health care patient. Instead, the trouble usually comes from changes in financial management habits. Americans are used to receiving bills and paying them online, and are showing their increasing dislike of managing paper bills. The tradition of paying all of the bills once or twice a month by writing checks while sitting at the kitchen table is obsolete, with fewer than 40 percent of Americans reporting that they still prefer to pay bills offline.
Reflecting these changes, the U.S. Postal Service has notoriously been less busy in recent years, carrying only 70 percent of the volume as it did 10 years ago. Given the trends, it is shocking that health care providers use paper billing for 98 percent of transactions. This habit is old-fashioned and inefficient. So, fair or not, physicians need to change their billing practices to accommodate Americans’ habits or watch their practices lose money and risk failure.
Paying bills online is not just preferable for patients. It also helps physicians. Instead of waiting for the end of the month as they might with paper bills, recipients of online bills are likely to pay them as soon as they receive them via email. Paper bills are more likely to be set aside for later payment.
Another benefit of online bills is that patients are able to see the charges and services easily. In contrast, paper bills are likely to include only bits and pieces of information. To see the whole picture, patients must gather all of the related pieces of paper, likely from different mail deliveries, and try to understand them.
One of the more common reasons for physicians to resist online billing is their concern with productivity. They think the switch to online billing will interrupt regular operations of the practice and require expensive software and extensive employee training. These fears are unfounded.
In reality, online billing can save money by reducing the cost of billing and getting rid of the need for follow-up paper statements. Human error is reduced, too. Online billing can dramatically reduce cash-flow problems because patients are more likely to pay quickly. Office staff will feel the benefits when they see online billing and payment service posts updates automatically. They will no longer need to reconcile patient accounts manually.
Online billing has very few serious barriers, and its benefits include better cash flow, overall savings, fewer errors, and happier office staff. Looking into online billing and payment services to replace paper billing is worth the effort.
Last Updated on July 11, 2014