The increasing and indispensable role of technology in driving business outcomes in healthcare has many functions across the organization wanting the ear of the CIO. The CIO job is beginning to resemble the role of the COO, Becker’s Hospital put it, as IT takes on more responsibility for “overseeing the organization’s strategy and risk management.”
One of those areas where IT is becoming more essential is in projects aimed at streamlining patient payment processes and optimizing cash management. As healthcare payments solutions become more sophisticated to drive greater value for clients, we expect to see patient financial services and the IT team work closely together to digitize more parts of the payment process and ensure everything integrates seamlessly with the EHR system (or systems), including improving the patient experience and optimizing internal efficiencies.
What should CIOs be mindful of in integrating billing and payments with EHR systems to enhance EHR functionality? Here’s some of what we’re seeing.
Focus on patient affordability drives demand for enhanced functionality to personalize payment plans. Consider this: almost two-thirds of healthcare consumers say they’ve cut back spending on food, clothing and other basics because of healthcare debt. For providers, easing the billing process while boosting collection capabilities remains a big priority – as organizations seek ways to take patients off standard dunning tracks and structure bills in a way that patients are most likely to pay them.
Expect more demands for data integration so that there is more data for advanced technologies to work with. Algorithms mine historical patient data to predict a patient’s capacity to pay, and leverage machine learning capabilities to improve those predictions as the algorithm gets access to more data on payment behavior – such as payment history, user engagement and real-time payment interaction. Real-time processing capabilities are advancing in this space, but right now this is primarily done by batch processing.
Security and compliance will only increase in importance. Security, broadly, remains a top CIO priority. Beyond the standard asks around HIPAA compliance, PCI Level 1 and SOC 1 certifications, we’re getting more detailed questions about how we use Advanced Encryption Standards (AES). This is the encryption standard selected by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for securing sensitive unclassified information, with an algorithm that encrypts 128-bit blocks of information using 128-, 192-, or 256-bit long cryptographic keys. Specifics on how data is encrypted will become more important as the cost and risk of a data breach continues to rise.
Advanced automation needed as consolidated billing builds steam. The push toward consolidated billing is a welcome one for the healthcare consumer, but for providers, pushing payments into the right account is challenging and can be intensely manual. A healthcare bill typically includes charges for different revenue accounts, and staggered payment plans present challenges in terms of determining which accounts get paid first. This is a process that has been traditionally challenging to automate and which is still managed by a lockbox collection system that requires manual posting of payment to the different accounts. Advances in Flywire technology now allow for us to integrate with the lockbox provider and automate the posting of payments correctly across multiple accounts based on defined posting rules. This presents massive opportunities in terms of enabling personalized and consolidated billing, while increasing accuracy, reducing manual work and ensuring strong cash flow.
Strong demand for native mobile applications. Consumer demand for increased mobile functionality coupled with EHR vendors publishing APIs means native mobile healthcare app development is becoming more mature. EHR app stores like Epic’s “App Orchard” are now robust. Flywire has two mobile apps for payments in the App Orchard that allow patients to securely access billing information and manage and make contactless payments securely from their mobile devices. With Secure Checkout, payments are posted in their portal in real-time. The Single-Sign On app integrates with the patient portal and allows patients to securely access their billing and payment information from their device.
Strong collaboration between IT and patient financial services has always been a hallmark of the healthcare industry – and an example that many other industries can follow. That strong relationship has unleashed innovation in the healthcare payment space and will continue to mask complexity in the payment process for the consumer and on the administrative end.