Flywire and the Patient Journey


There is one common thread that binds together the Affordable Care Act (ACA), proliferation of technology, and value-based payments in healthcare: change.

Healthcare industry leaders are tasked with the overwhelming prospect of staying ahead of technological change, regulatory shifts from the ACA (and any impending changes under the incoming administration), and the move toward a value-based payment regime. And this just scratches the surface.

With all this change, it’s easy to see how revenue opportunities can be left on the table.

In parallel, the growing number of patients seeking care abroad has opened a new, significant revenue channel for well-positioned hospitals, one that can augment any existing gaps on the domestic side. Many hospitals, beyond the well-known international destination institutions, are making significant investments to attract and serve the international patient. How can hospitals capitalize on this trend? Creating the best possible patient experience is certainly a great start, and the payment process is a significant factor in determining the overall outcome of the patient experience.

Payment responsibility for cross-border healthcare services depends on the type of treatment, the patient’s country of origin, and any applicable insurance coverage. Payment into the hospital, therefore, will largely come directly from a patient, an insurance company, or a foreign government. Each has its challenges, but this article focuses on the significant revenue stream from self-pay patient cases. To capture this opportunity effectively, hospitals must understand the patient’s journey through the tricky cross-border payment process. There are many opportunities for improvement.

The Healthcare Payments Process for International Patients

Imagine a scenario in which a patient from the UAE is seeking treatment at a major U.S. hospital, and the estimated cost is $200,000. The patient does not have insurance covering services in the U.S., and the UAE government is not offering to cover overseas medical bills. This is clearly a stressful situation for the patient and a desired opportunity for the hospital to both capture the opportunity for care and provide a seamless, transparent and simple way for the patient to pay.

While this is not an uncommon scenario, the stress is compounded by an opaque, confusing, and costly cross-border payment system. In a world where consumers have become accustomed to instant payment options, initiating a bank wire and carrying out a foreign exchange (FX) conversion is not immediately intuitive. For an individual payor, the FX price offered from the bank can be expensive. In this scenario, a patient could see a markup as high as $6,000 or between 4-6%. This does not include bank fees that are carved off as the payment makes its way from the patient’s bank account to the hospital’s bank account in the U.S. There is no infrastructure in place informing the patient that a payment has reached its end destination, creating a black hole in the payor experience.

For the hospital, banking intermediaries are deducting fees after a payment is initiated, and the patient’s payment arrives into the hospital’s bank account short, creating additional work as the hospital places additional resources on the issue to manually reconcile the incoming funds. Typically, any short balance can be written off in this scenario.

Hospitals who have recognized the international opportunity have formalized their service offerings to ensure a top-class patient experience. Translators, travel help, and a plethora of concierge services are on offer. Payment, and the payment experience on the other hand, remains a real opportunity because the hospital does not have control over the existing payment/banking infrastructure. How can hospitals acquire a greater degree of control over a service that has such a material impact on their patient’s experience?

The Flywire Solution

Flywire, which began as a global education payment provider for international students, expanded into the medical tourism payment space in late 2015. As a leader in the higher education market — serving more than 1100 educational institutions around the world — Flywire has brought its expertise to healthcare providers and international patients.

Because Flywire partners directly with hospitals, patients can rest assured that their payments are secure and that that their payment experience is personalized to their needs as well as to their healthcare provider’s. They can trust Flywire to perform the currency conversion for them and to offer competitive market rates, which Flywire receives by leveraging the company’s size to get wholesale rates.

Furthermore, the patient’s pain point of having to use mail to receive billing information and to send payments is resolved through Flywire’s online billing communications and payment processes.

In addition to offering secure, cost-effective, and transparent payment solutions to patients, Flywire ensures they have best-in-class, multilingual support available round the clock via live chat, phone, and email. They recognize that international patients need help that is not constrained by language or time zones.

The decision to travel abroad in search of medical care is not one made lightly. When hospitals rely on Flywire to take over billing communications and payment solutions, patients benefit not only from a clear and improved user experience, but from better rates, customer service, and peace of mind. Patients can then focus on what is most important: their own treatment and care.

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