InstaMed basically helps providers collect from patients so it has some insight on how payers, providers and consumers feel about health bills and payments and the processes they use in the reimbursement cycle. The company’s ninth annual report on trends in health payments was recently released. (InstaMed Report) Some background drivers noted in the report include that most consumers with private insurance have increased cost-sharing and most have a smart phone and are developing a preference for being able to do things, including paying medical bills, using their phone. Most consumers, 70%, report being confused by medical bills and by explanations of benefits from payers. 50% say they have gotten a medical bill they didn’t expect and 61% a bill for more than they expected. 24% say they have been sent to collections. 56% of respondents said they could not pay a $1000 medical bill. 80% said that convenience factors in general could lead them to switch providers and 60% said a better payment process might lead them to change. 88% would like to know their financial responsibility before receiving service and 80% would like access to an online estimator. While most medical bills still come in paper form, consumers say they would prefer electronic bills. InstaMed says mobile payments are now up to 29% of all payments processed on their network. Payment plans with automatic payments to deal with larger medical bills are also gaining in popularity.
From the provider perspective the increase in patient financial is proving stressful as well. From 2015 to 2018, the volume of patient payments to providers grew by 67% and the amount of those payments also increased. The great majority of providers say they cannot collect payments from patients within a month and large bills are especially challenging. While most patients still trust providers more than payers and value their relationship with clinicians, poor financial experiences can erode that trust. Most providers still are heavily reliant on paper processes for check-in and billing, which is out-of-step with changing patient preferences. And providers themselves do not know the patient share of a bill at time of service for over 50% of encounters. 71% don’t offer electronic statements and 61% don’t offer automatic payments. According to InstaMed, providers would save billions of dollars in administrative costs by eliminating paper. Payers similarly are often challenged by reimbursement activities, but generally are ahead of providers in using technology to improve productivity and member experience, with most providers having an online portal that includes financial information. But many payers still are reliant upon paper checks to pay some providers. It is clear from the report that no one is happy having to pay for medical services and consumers struggle with both the amounts and the processes involved in health care billing. The process can be improved more easily than the amounts.