Mnet Health 2020 Year In Review

Our 2020 Story and Outlook for 2021 By David Hamilton, CEO of Mnet Health

As the year 2020 comes to a close, it is helpful to take a look back on what we’ve been through and set our sights on the dawn of a new year.

A snippet from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities serves perfectly well to describe 2020: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

COVID-19 rattled the whole world with rising death tolls and ICU-bed occupancy. Health systems have been put under strain. Many companies have furloughed staff, while others have closed forever, leaving employees to find job opportunities elsewhere.

On the bright side, the current crisis has forced organizations to adapt rapidly to new realities and faster ways of working with their customers and partners.

In fact, during the pandemic, McKinsey & Company data showed that we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.

Telemedicine saw tremendous adoption in the healthcare industry. Schools have pivoted to online learning and digital classrooms. Brick-and-mortar stores have shifted to online ordering and delivery.

Here at Mnet, we focused on our mission to help patients pay and preserve the integrity of our industry.

As Mnet works with over 700 surgical facilities nationwide handling over 1.5 million patients, we strengthened our commitment to work with the medical community in keeping the lines of communication open with patients.

We focused on our Remote Call Center

In March, as we navigated the unprecedented circumstances around COVID-19, we transitioned our team members to work remotely to have every department fully operational.

With our remote call center technology and Patient Financial Advocates, we stood ready to field inbound calls, help patients pertaining to payment, answer any billing questions, and even offered practical suggestions such as how to apply for unemployment.

We saw patient payments spike in June

Amidst the coronavirus crisis, Mnet saw an increase in total patient payment by 1.6% compared to the period prior to Covid-19.

We saw more patients pay in full (+2.0%), make larger payments (+3.3%), or establish payment plans (+13.3%).

Consumers became less inclined to spend more on non-essentials. Instead, they used their money to pay down debt and keep their credit lines open.

As patients stayed at home and worked remotely, they were far more available and had more time to devote to resolving their balances. They also wanted to show their gratitude to healthcare workers.

We added over 200 languages to our call center

As restrictions eased in August and elective procedures resumed, healthcare facilities were ramping up case volumes to recover some financial ground.

Mnet added 200 languages to its call center capability in order to help patients pay. A huge backlog of 4 million elective surgeries canceled in the US at the height of the pandemic was awaiting rescheduling.

As many of these patients were self-pay, we helped them by removing language barriers and communicating in their native tongue in order to provide an outstanding patient experience.

We released a Text-to-Pay platform

Mnet also launched its Text-to-Pay platform which can deliver all patient financial services — everything from payment in full to pay-plans and financing within a text conversation.

Text-to-Pay has become an essential solution for healthcare facilities to provide a contactless payment method for their patients.

Looking forward to 2021

The overarching theme of 2020 for Mnet was resilience and adaptability. We achieved several milestones in 2020 and signed on over 70 new facilities despite the challenging backdrop.

As we enter a new year, we think the changes in digital adoption that transpired in 2020 will continue to be pertinent. Consumer preference and digital transformation will continue to play center-stage roles in 2021.

We believe every patient deserves a helpful, transparent, easy to navigate financial experience in healthcare.

In 2021, we have the possibility of dramatically changing how things are done. Join us in helping patients pay and create better financial experiences.


About Mnet Health

We believe every patient deserves a helpful, transparent, easy-to-navigate financial experience in healthcare.

Mnet is the premier revenue cycle management & technology provider to the surgical industry. Mnet provides customized patient-pay solutions to surgical hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. Mnet Health partners with over 900 surgical facilities nationwide and is the preferred vendor to the leading ASC management companies in the US both directly with and in support of centralized billing offices.

Mnet’s tailor-made brand, PaySUITE, is a white-labeled payment technology platform that helps surgical facilities, and their providers grow their business by helping patients pay. Mnet’s patient-pay solutions significantly increase self-pay collections while creating a better financial experience for patients. For more information, visit mnethealth.com.


How to Get Out of the Paper Ages and Into the Digital Pay Era

The ongoing impact of Covid-19 combined with changing consumer behavior is causing healthcare providers to rethink their digital payment strategies.

Although safety and convenience are mainly driving the use of digital payments, patients as consumers are demanding more than what they currently get from online payment experiences from their healthcare providers.

With digitally native millennials and Gen Z members making up over half of the US population, consumer expectations are expected to rapidly evolve in the future.

The world is going through an unprecedented period due to the spread of Covid-19. The need for social distancing has brought contactless payments at the forefront of our payment experience.

Healthcare has long struggled to modernize and create retail-like patient experiences. Many health systems rely on legacy channels to communicate with patients and collect payments. Medical bills are sent by mail prompting patients to pay by mailing a check or calling their provider’s office to make a payment over the phone.

While healthcare organizations are still in the era of paper and manual processes, patients are well into the age of digital payments. Patients are clamoring for better ways to pay their healthcare bills.

The pandemic has now become the catalyst that has fueled changes that have been badly needed for years. Trends like contactless payments and text-to-pay are now coming to the forefront and becoming necessities.

It’s time for healthcare facilities to innovate and rethink historical ways of doing business.

Digital trends in the COVID-19 landscape

With more financial responsibility for their healthcare, patients are increasingly demanding better service. They want to analyze different options and choose what’s best for their situation.

They want quicker and more convenient payment options.

In the era of consumerism, ignoring consumer demands could have dire consequences – damage to an organization’s brand, lost patients or members, and ultimately revenue.

Next generation bill pay offering incorporates personalized guidance and alerts that enhance the overall payment experience for consumers. Modern customer expectations revolve around three key questions:

  • How can bill pay be made simpler?
  • How can bill pay be made smarter?
  • How can bill pay be made faster?

With those in mind, here’s how your healthcare facility can transform its digital pay offerings:

  1. Contactless Payments

Even before the pandemic, contactless payments were already a widely used payment method. But now, healthcare facilities see them as essential as consumers are increasingly wary of using keypads or touchscreen surfaces that are being used by the public.

A recent survey by Mastercard reveals how the pandemic has spurred the adoption of contactless payment technology:

  • 77% view contactless as the cleaner way to pay
  • 51% of US consumers say they are now using contactless payments
  • 56% state they will continue to use contactless payment post-pandemic

MasterCard has witnessed a surge of 40% in the contactless payments in the first quarter of the year.

  1. Text-to-pay Solutions

For many consumers, text or SMS payments serve as a convenient contactless way to pay as 97% of Americans use their mobile phone’s texting feature at least once a day (Pew Research Center).

Sending bills and reminders of payments via texts can result in a 40 percent boost in payments, one medical services expert noted.

But there are other unique benefits in using text-to-pay in a healthcare setting.

  • Reduce PCI scope and reliance on hardware because text-to-pay solutions turn a patient’s smartphone into a payment device.
  • Reduce the risk of human error (e.g. employees typing a patient’s credit card information over the phone)
  • Text-to-pay can be used to facilitate card-on-file payment agreements, set-up payment plans, and apply for financing options.
  • By capturing patient information and consent at point-of-service using text-to-pay, health systems enable digital-first billing with patients receiving their bills right after their scheduled visit rather than waiting for mail.

Within the text, patients also have the option of contacting customer service representatives or patient financial advocates who can explain their charges and help regarding their medical bills.

  1. Digital billing and online patient portals

Digital bill pay and online patient portals make it easier for patients to manage their financial responsibility – to pay their bills in full, set up a payment plan, or choose from a variety of financing options. Adopting online patient portals and digital billing makes more patient-centric, convenient care experiences.

Digital billing systems also improve the patient experience by streamlining bill pay, making the process more convenient using tools that patients use every day.

  • Communicate patient financial responsibility via email or text or alerts
  • Provide patients with a way to pay their bills in one-click
  • Offer more flexibility with multiple payment options, ability to set-up payment plans, access financing options, or charity care.

Patients go to their online portal and receive an email/text and all they must do is click one button and it explains to them what that bill is for, how much it is, and how to make a payment.

Mnet Provides Digital Tools to Help Patients Pay 

With healthcare consumerism, the new battleground is the patient experience.

Mnet helps you deliver best-in-class payment experience for your patients looking for smarter, simpler, and faster ways to pay their bills. With PaySuite, Mnet offers a full suite of digital tools to reinvent your digital pay offering.

Your facility gets custom branded:

Your patients get:

  • Online & mobile bill pay
  • Self-help payment plans & financing options
  • Customer phone support with multi-lingual agents

With the influx of digitally native patients and COVID-related acceleration towards digital, now is the pivotal moment for healthcare facilities to make their payment experience more innovative and engaging for patients.


About Mnet Health

We believe every patient deserves a helpful, transparent, easy-to-navigate financial experience in healthcare. Mnet is the premier revenue cycle management & technology provider to the surgical industry. Mnet provides customized patient-pay solutions to surgical hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. Mnet Health partners with over 900 surgical facilities nationwide and is the preferred vendor to the leading ASC management companies in the US both directly with and in support of centralized billing offices.

Have a question? Contact Us Now


Why Providers Are Making Their Entire Patient Financial Experience Contactless

Why Providers Are Making Their Entire Patient Financial Experience Contactless

While the current pandemic has brought many sectors of the economy to a stop, it has also fueled changes that certain areas like healthcare have needed for years. Most of these changes revolve around increasing digitalization like contactless experience.

Healthcare has long struggled to transform its patient experience to a modern, consumer-friendly model. Even though consumers have been getting almost everything done through apps on their mobile phones or online for quite some time now, healthcare systems still rely on legacy methods to communicate and interact with patients.

Many healthcare facilities are still operating on traditional methods of payment, such as physical checks, point-of-sale machines, and cash.

But Covid-19 has become an unlikely catalyst for technological change in the healthcare industry; driving transition towards cashless payments faster than anyone could have predicted.

The Healthcare Landscape During COVID-19

The current healthcare environment is filled with financial uncertainty since patients nowadays have a greater financial responsibility. Many people have lost their jobs which means they may have also lost access to their health insurance.

People are also trying to avoid going physically to healthcare facilities to reduce their risk of contracting the virus.

Across the United States, COVID-19 has kickstarted technological changes — use of telehealth, cashless payments, and online portals. This crisis has forced healthcare into a more digital world. Contactless and consumer-friendly solutions have become increasingly important for addressing patients’ concerns.

The global health crisis is changing consumers’ habits - accelerating a transition towards digital and cashless experiences:

  • Consumer purchases shifted to e-commerce. Amazon’s web traffic was up 32% year-over-year in the second week of March (WSJ)
  • A surge in demand for telehealth services: One hospital went from nearly zero telehealth visits to over 2000 daily.

Consumers everywhere are concerned about contamination risks of handling cash during the pandemic. Studies show that paper bills can carry approximately 100 strains of bacteria and can host live flu viruses for three or even 17 days. Credit and debit cards were also dirtier than cash in a recent study by lendedu.

As a precaution against the transfer of COVID-19, the Fed also began quarantining physical dollars it repatriated from Asia and Europe before recirculating them into the U.S. economy.

The Shift to Contactless Payments

The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised consumers to avoid handling banknotes and switch to contactless payments to slow virus transmission.

Consumers have adapted to mobile, online and contactless payments during this time of social distancing and self-isolation. Digital payments have become the norm due to widespread fears of handling cash and touching hard surfaces such as PIN pads and touch screens.

A worldwide study by Mastercard revealed the following:

  • 79 percent of respondents say they are now using contactless payments, citing safety and cleanliness as key drivers
  • 74 percent of respondents state they will continue to use contactless post-pandemic

According to Juniper Research, contactless transaction values in the US are expected to rise at an even higher rate than the global market, reaching $1.5 trillion by 2024, compared with about $178 billion in 2020.

Experts suggest that these consumer habits could last well after the pandemic has ended. The habits that may have been formed will not completely go away as more people embrace contactless technology and get used to paying that way.

Contactless Patient Financial Services to Help Patients Pay

Contactless payments not only keep your staff and patients safe but also make your revenue cycle processes more efficient and provide better patient experience.

There are multiple contactless payment channels you can make available to your patients - from text-to-pay experience to online portals. But during this healthcare crisis, it’s more than just providing contactless payment methods to patients, it’s more about reaching out to patients that are already hard-pressed in today’s economy.

The unemployment situation due to Covid-19 has affected the finances of many patients. Thus, healthcare facilities need to work on ways to accommodate patients who may need more financial flexibility in the coming months.

Patients need more than just an online bill pay option. They need a variety of other financial services such as contact-free payment plans and financing.

Text-to-pay Experience: The most efficient approach for contactless payment is through SMS as 97% of Americans use their mobile phone’s texting feature at least once a day (Pew Research Center). Mnet’s SMS platform is designed to deliver all patient financial services — everything from payment in full to pay-plans and financing all neatly offered in a text experience.

Text-to-pay can be made anytime, anywhere, and does not require a point‐of‐sale (POS) terminal. Text messaging is more likely to be used in building a long-term relationship with a patient and is a very useful tool in pre-collections. Text messages also have very high open rates and response rates.

Text billing solutions allow providers to send patient invoices, reminders, collect payments, and provide receipts all via text message. This directly translates to increased collections and additional revenue.

Enabling text-to-pay experiences helps consumers feel in control over their finances and creates a better patient experience. With a text billing solution, healthcare providers eliminate much of the collection process and get a more cost-effective alternative to paper billing.

Payment Plans and Financing: The ability to set up and manage payment plans and flexibility in choosing financial options are critical financial services during the pandemic.

In this time of financial stress, providing your patients with the ability to manage their payments from home is critical. Providers leveraging these patient financial services would be able to treat more patients who otherwise may not have been able to afford services.

What the pandemic has taught the healthcare industry is to innovate and rethink old ways of doing business. It seems clear that patients expect contactless and consumer-friendly payment options now and moving forward.


About Mnet Health

We believe every patient deserves a helpful, transparent, easy-to-navigate financial experience in healthcare. Mnet is the premier revenue cycle management & technology provider to the surgical industry. Mnet provides customized patient-pay solutions to surgical hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. Mnet Health partners with over 900 surgical facilities nationwide and is the preferred vendor to the leading ASC management companies in the US both directly with and in support of centralized billing offices.

Have a question? Contact Us Now


empty hospital lobby

What if Your Surgery Center Staff Doesn’t Want to Come Back from Furlough?

The same group of workers tasked with treating those afflicted with the coronavirus has also lost work in droves since the pandemic started. The picture looks bleak as emergency room visits went down and non-urgent surgical procedures have been largely put on hold.

According to the Labor Department. 1.4 million health care workers lost their jobs in April, a sharp increase from the 42,000 reported in March. Healthcare spending also fell 18% in the first three months of the year with 256 hospitals furloughing workers in response to COVID-19. The American Hospital Association recently predicted that U.S. hospitals and health systems would end up taking a $200 billion hit over a four-month period through June.

However, with states lifting lockdowns and elective surgeries being allowed to resume, another problem surfaces: what if the staff doesn’t want to come back from furlough?

Safety Concerns of Going Back into ASC’s

While no one wants to be furloughed or unemployed indefinitely, recent surveys show that many Americans have mixed feelings about returning to work right now.

A recent Bankrate survey revealed the following:

  • 55% of Americans believe businesses are reopening too soon
  • 35 percent say they will be comfortable visiting businesses within a month, while 19 percent say they’d rather wait between one month and less than three months

It is expected that ASC’s have taken extraordinary precautions to protect patients, staff, and physicians. Some surgery centers have also offered their facility to the local hospital as a non-COVID overflow option.

Healthcare facilities like ambulatory surgery centers follow strict safety measures and new procedures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection. For example:

  • Requiring all providers, staff, and patients to be screened for COVID-19
  • Staff being tested on a weekly basis at minimum
  • Patients being tested several days before their surgical procedure
  • Requirement to wear a mask, face covering, and the appropriate PPE
  • Social distancing measures, sanitizing, and regular disinfection

Confidence in the safety of healthcare facilities is in large due to rapid testing. In early March, it could take 7 to 10 days for results to come back. But now, people can see results within one or two days.

Some ASC Employees Will Make More with Enhanced Unemployment Benefits

To help people financially cope with job loss during a pandemic, the federal government—through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)—is providing an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits.

This amount is in addition to what the states already pay, which is in the range of $200 to $450 per week. So many are taking in an average of $1000 per week in unemployment benefits.

An unintended and unexpected consequence of the multi-trillion-dollar stimulus package (CARES Act) is that workers are asking to be laid off or reluctant to go back to work after being furloughed. Employers say this is complicating their plans to reopen business.

However, the $600 extra dollars last only up until July 25. So furloughed workers who decline to return to their jobs are playing a dangerous game. When the benefits run out and people return to the job market, people will face intense competition from the massive amount of other unemployed people.

Child Care Concerns as Daycare Facilities are Not Yet Reopening

Another big hurdle that surgery centers face is the lack of childcare, which is quickly emerging as one of the biggest barriers to recover from the healthcare crisis.

Some staff members can’t go back to work without someone to care for their children, whether preschool or daycare facility, babysitter, or relatives. Even if they can find childcare, they’re often worried that states are moving too quickly and may be putting their children at risk.

With this problem, how can staff go back to work? And if they can’t go back to work now, how will they afford alternate forms of childcare so they eventually can?

Maintaining Staff Morale While Navigating Tough New Decisions

The coronavirus epidemic is negatively impacting staff morale in more ways than what healthcare leaders can expect.

As they interact with patients, healthcare staff are not only at high risk of infection but also of overwork and exhaustion handling more work due to staff shortages. Some staff who are also working lesser hours are having financial pressures that will add to their emotional burdens.

ASC leaders have a critical role in maintaining staff morale as they strive to preserve job security for their staff.

The most important thing that your surgery center can do is to have trustworthy, visible leaders. This is critical in the current COVID-19 crisis when there is so much uncertainty over supplies, patient, and staff safety.

Healthcare executives need to be communicating with staff on a regular basis:

  • By reassuring staff that they understand the situation and have a plan to manage it.
  • By thinking about the future, chronicling lessons learned, and updating the employee engagement surveys to take into consideration this crisis
  • By helping staff understand what they need to do to get back to normal in a post-virus environment

How Mnet Can Help

As you resume business again, your center will have staffing related problems. At the same time, having a focus on patient payments can free up limited staff to keep building case volume.

Mnet is ready, willing, and able to field inbound patient payment calls, even on a temporary basis, using our Remote Call Center technology (RCC) and Patient Financial Advocates (PFAs).  Mnet has tailored our remote assistance to be a seamless transition for your ASC with limited commitment.

Our main goal is to help our loyal clients and help preserve the integrity of our industry as we work through this challenging time together.

  • Open your doors sooner with an already fully functioning patient pay department
  • Centers reopening can focus on scheduling cases while remote call center reps focus on payments
  • Maintain extended business office hours going forward
  • Stretch start-up dollars: Avoid out-of-pocket expenses for as long as possible with performance-based fees

Call 866.648.4677 or email contact@mnethealth.com today to see how Mnet Health is helping patients pay.


Is Your COVID-19 Response Going to Cost You Patient Visits in the Future?

Patients who owe you as little as $100 may visit a different provider for their future needs.

According to an AthenaHealth study completed in 2017, “orthopedic patients were the most sensitive to balance size, with their return rates dropping 45 percentage points when their balance was over $200 compared to when they owed nothing.”

Here are 3 essentials to Preserving Patient Loyalty During Crisis:

1) Proactive Patient Communication

  • A Letter strategy to communicate your policies and available payment options
  • Being mindful of the tone on your outbound calls

2) Flexibility for Payment Options

  • Offer a deferred in-house payment arrangement
  • Helping patients understand your 3rd party finance options available to them

3) Extended Hours for In-House Patient Financial Advocates

  • Providing practical advice on subjects such as unemployment
  • Discuss other options that are available and what they might expect

Mnet is ready to help you, even on a temporary basis, using our Remote Call Center technology and remote Patient Financial Advocates. 

Contact us to find out more:

800.361.6638 | contact@mnethealth.com

Our Remote Call Center is here to help you.

In light of the current Coronavirus pandemic, Mnet is deeply committed to working with the medical community in their efforts to stabilize productivity and keep patient communications open and available. We understand the drastic situation that the healthcare industry is facing – and we’re here to help. 

Mnet has tailored our remote assistance to be a seamless transition for your ASC with limited commitment. Our main goal is to help our loyal clients and help preserve the integrity of our industry as we work through this challenging time together.

Remote Call Center – How it works:

Mnet PFA’s will remotely access your Patient Accounting System and you will forward inbound patient-balance calls into our Remote Call Center.

Remote Call Center Features:

  • PFA teams dedicated to you and your ASC
  • 100% US based with multilingual staff
  • Seamless Call transfer capabilities
  • IVR
  • Support 8am-8pm central and weekends with 9 second average hold time

Patient Financial Advocates :

Your patients will be assisted by highly trained PFAs

  • Able to answer billing questions
  • Offer payment or pay-plan options
  • Help boost CareCredit utilization
  • PAs can help patients explore alternative payment or bill resolution through federal or state programs

Learn More

Mnet Health Provides Immediate Remote Patient Financial Advocates and Remote Call Center

Do you need help fielding patient calls during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In light of the current Coronavirus pandemic, Mnet is deeply committed to working with the medical community in their efforts to stabilize productivity and keep patient communications open and available. We understand the drastic situation that the healthcare industry is facing – and we’re here to help.

Mnet is ready, willing and able to field inbound patient payment calls, even on a temporary basis, using our Remote Call Center technology (RCC) and Patient Financial Advocates (PFAs).  Mnet has tailored our remote assistance to be a seamless transition for your ASC with limited commitment. Our main goal is to help our loyal clients and help preserve the integrity of our industry as we work through this challenging time together.

Remote Call Center – How it works:

Mnet PFAs will remotely access your Patient Accounting System and you will forward inbound patient-balance calls into our remote contact center.

Call Center Features:

  • PFA teams dedicated to you and your ASC
  • 100% US-based with multilingual staff
  • Seamless Call transfer capabilities
  • IVR
  • Support 8am-8pm central and weekends with 9-second average hold time

Patient Financial Advocates:

Your patients will be assisted by highly trained PFAs

  • Able to answer billing questions
  • Offer payment or pay-plan options
  • CareCredit 

Transact CareCredit as a method of payment

Help patients through the application process

PFAs can help patients with practical suggestions during the crisis such as:

  • How to apply for unemployment
  • Where to find assistance
  • Much more


Would you like to learn more?

Call us at 800.361.6638 or email us at contact@mnethealth.com.

 


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Mnet Health

Mnet's Top Priorities and Goals During COVID-19

As we continue to navigate the evolving and unprecedented circumstances around COVID-19, Mnet wants to reiterate that our top priority is the safety and health of our customers, employees and loved ones.  Our thoughts go out to all those impacted by the virus.

As always, we are doing everything possible to continue providing you and your patients with the highest level of service, which you have come to expect from Mnet.  Our business continuity and disaster recovery plan include maintaining geographically distributed data centers, which have been operating consistently to ensure uninterrupted service and product functionality. Our team members have been transitioned to work remotely and every department is fully operational.  This plan has been developed over several years and has enabled us to adapt quickly with minimal impact on our customers and their patients.

Going forward, aside from any breaking news that may require immediate attention,  Mnet will be sending weekly updates to keep you informed.

We value the confidence you place in us and remain steadfast in our responsibility to support you and your business.  We are honored to serve together with you and deeply appreciate all of the sacrifices that our healthcare professionals are making each day.

Wishing you safety and good health.

Sincerely

David Hamilton


Do's and Don'ts of Text Billing Patients

The Do’s and Don’ts of Text Billing Patients

Text messaging or SMS communication is a great way to reach patients if you want your bill to be seen and dealt with quickly. According to a study by Qualtrics and Accel, young millennials check their phones on average 150 times a day. An eMarketer study conducted in 2016 also revealed that the average adult spends more than 4 hours per day on their mobile phones.

Text reminders can be effective in a way that paper statements and phone calls are not. Texting is part of many patients’ normal daily routine and it’s convenient for patients. Texts are also seen as less intrusive by patients than a follow-up call.

There are a variety of approaches that providers can use when text billing patients. For example, providers can send text alerts to remind patients of statement availability or when payment is about to be deducted for recurring payments. It could also be in the form of a text message, notifying patients that payment is due, with a link that they can click which takes them to a patient portal where they can pay immediately.

In a way, text messaging drives the adoption of online payments because the process is so simple. Your patients pay online and you are able to collect quickly at a low cost to your business.  One survey revealed that 65% of consumers (respondents) pay their bill on first text notification.

Text billing can lead to quicker payment and improved collection efficiencies but it is not without costly compliance risks. It’s important that you understand the rules and regulations around using text as a collection tool.

In 2017, Uber agreed to pay $20 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over allegations it sent unsolicited text messages in violation of TCPA. Prior consent is not the only hurdle you’ll have to go through when text messaging consumers. There are other things to watch out for.

In September 2013, the Federal Trade Commission fined a debt collector $1 million for FDCPA violations involving text messaging, but not directly because of the text messages but for failing to identify themselves as debt collectors.

Relevant Laws

There are different laws that may apply when you use text billing into your collection strategy. Some apply to the communication method, some to the industry itself and some may apply depending upon the information being sent.

  • TCPA: The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was enacted in 1991 to protect consumers from unsolicited automated calls, texts, and faxes. TCPA violations cost at least $500 per illegal call, text, or fax. This can add up quickly when you text thousands of individuals at a time.

Because a text is considered a call, TCPA applies. If you will be sending mass texts, you must keep TCPA in mind. Calls (or texts) to cellphones using any form of artificial or prerecorded voice or using an automated telephone dialing system (ATDS) without the recipient’s consent is illegal. While the law does allow for some exceptions, they are quite narrow.

  • FDCPA: The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies due to communication with consumers about their debts.
  • HIPAA: When collecting medical debt, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is an additional concern that should be addressed when considering any communication with consumers.

In addition, though not federal law, there are messaging best practices and guidelines set by the CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association) which represents the U.S. wireless communications industry and is comprised of representatives from major telecom companies, such as carriers and suppliers.

Here are things to remember when texting billing patients:

DO’S

  1. Ask for consent for all communications

It is good practice to adopt documentation policies that clearly confirm a patient’s consent to use their number for billing and collection purposes.

It is best to gain consent to text while speaking live with the consumer on the phone. During this process, debt collectors can verify the mobile number and send an opt-in text while still speaking to the consumer, ensuring the process is complete before concluding the conversation. Consent can also be gained through your facility’s website, allowing consumers to feel more in control of their preferences.

You can also get consent through a well-written consent form as part of new patient paperwork, or to existing patients at their next visit.

Providers can’t just get the patient’s consent to send one sort of message, but then send something totally different. Patients need to consent or opt-in, very specifically, to the specific type of messages that you’ll be sending them.

  1. Use secure messaging platform or encryption

HIPAA requires providers to use security measures when communicating with patients via text/email, such as encryption or secure messaging platforms. Alternatively, providers need to obtain consent from patients to send protected information via unsecured email or text. Sending protected information over unsecured emails or texts without a patient’s consent can violate HIPAA. Also, remember that “password-protected” is not the same as “secure” or “encrypted.”

  1. Include an opt-out message in all texts

Opting out or revocation should be offered at any reasonable time, place or manner for those wishing to discontinue communication by text. Your center must also immediately take action to stop texting them as soon as reasonably possible.

  1. Include certain disclosures as required by regulation

For example, text messages must include certain disclosures as required by CTIA. FDCPA also requires debt collectors to inform the consumer of the following (mini-Miranda):

  • The contact is from a debt collector
  • The purpose of the communication is to collect a debt
  • Any information disclosed by the consumer will be used to collect the debt

Your text message would essentially contain:

  • Name of your company
  • Mini-Miranda
  • “Text rates may apply”
  • Opt-out (can use shortcode)
  • Additional shortcodes if action is needed

DON’TS

  1. Don’t combine marketing, healthcare information, or billing info in a text

You need consent if there’s any type of marketing in a message (despite the presence of health info). Consent can’t be mixed either. Consent to receive medical bills on your cellphone is not the same as consent to receive text messages that contain marketing.

  1. Don’t include a patient’s PHI (protected health information)

Unless a provider or practice has a secure text messaging platform, text messages are not secure or encrypted. Text messages are easily intercepted, often sent to an incorrect number, and usually stored indefinitely on third-party devices, such as the wireless carrier’s servers. Thus, text messages should not include a patient’s PHI.

  1. Don’t send patients text bills without helpful agents

      Texting without having trained personnel readily available to take questions or comments from patients would be counterproductive. In healthcare, just sending patients text bills without helpful agents actually causes more complaints than payments!

      According to InstaMed’s Trends in Healthcare Payments Eighth Annual Report: 2017, consumers are quite confused:

      • 72% are confused by their explanation of benefits.
      • 70% are confused by medical bills.

      When making a significant decision, most consumers want to talk to a qualified human expert. According to a study by Google, 61% of mobile users call a business when they’re in the purchase phase of the buying cycle. This is because consumers are looking to get a quick answer (59%) or want to talk to a real person (57%).

      Turnkey Solution: Partner with A Licensed Patient Financial Services Company

      When adopting a text billing solution, it is critical that you have a highly compliant and sophisticated revenue cycle management strategy. Text billing works best when complemented with helpful agents from getting consent (ensuring that the consent process is complete) up to answering questions about the bill. Highly skilled agents who are good at speaking with patients can more than pay for themselves.

      Hence, the best strategy is to partner with a licensed Patient Financial Services company that offers a complete text billing solution and patient call center all-in-one.

      Make sure that you partner with a company that has well-trained agents who can answer insurance coverage questions, offer financing solutions, and have a firm understanding of TCPA, FDCPA, and other relevant collection laws.


      About Mnet Health

      We believe every patient deserves a helpful, transparent, easy-to-navigate financial experience in healthcare.

      Mnet is the premier revenue cycle management & technology provider to the surgical industry. Mnet provides customized patient-pay solutions to surgical hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. Mnet Health partners with over 900 surgical facilities nationwide and is the preferred vendor to the leading ASC management companies in the US both directly with and in support of centralized billing offices.

      Mnet’s tailor-made brand, PaySUITE, is a white-labeled payment technology platform that helps surgical facilities, and their providers grow their business by helping patients pay. Mnet’s patient-pay solutions significantly increase self-pay collections while creating a better financial experience for patients. For more information, visit mnethealth.com.


      Act Now and Boost Collections During This Tax Refund Season

      With the start of the new year, many also start to think about the upcoming tax season and when they can get their IRS income tax refund. Tis the season for taxes as people say.

      During the 2019 filing season, about 72% of consumers who filed a tax return received an average refund of $2,781 according to IRS statistics. That’s already a good amount people can use to pay down their debts.

      According to the National Retail Federation, 35% of consumers who are expecting a tax refund said they would use it to pay down debt.

      As such, Mnet is helping patients get off on the right financial foot for 2020 by helping them to pay down their debt. Here are some strategies Mnet uses to maximize collections during tax refund season:

      Early and strategic patient financial communications

      Before refunds even hit consumers’ pockets, we deliver patient financial communication in the most consumer-friendly manner. In 2019, nearly 50% of taxpayers filed on or before March 15 — well before the April 15 deadline. In addition, approximately 50% of all refunds were issued on or before March 15 according to IRS data. Hence the early months of the first quarter of the year are critical to engaging with past-due customers.

      As patients get their tax return refunds, they review their current financial situation. In many cases, past-due medical bills are not at the top of their list because other debtors charge higher interest rates or offer settlements for payments in full. But well-timed touchpoints and personalized messages could influence who consumers would pay back first.

      The first thing that Mnet does is to ensure it has updated contact information to ensure each patient's communication counts whether by direct mail or online campaigns. Skipping this step wastes tons of money and time.

      Mnet uses consumer-friendly patient engagement strategies to stay on the mind of patients and to give them a compelling reason to pay their medical bills (e.g. discounts for payments in full).

      Targeted outreach and assessing propensity to pay 

      Knowing which patients may receive a refund and who will likely pay their medical debt is critical. Targeting the wrong people can end up wasting a lot of money (e.g. costs of direct mail, advertising, etc.). Patients may have that extra cash, but that doesn’t mean they’re all going to pay their medical debts.

      Some people are more likely to pay their medical debts with their refunds than others, so Mnet focuses its outreach to this group first by leveraging multiple data sources.

      Propensity to Pay Data

      Mnet uses daily payment updates and adjustments on self-pay accounts to enrich data on a patients’ propensity-to-pay aside from leveraging credit and non-credit public records data.

      By using propensity to pay data, the time and effort spent unproductively on tracking collections from patients who are unlikely to pay will be significantly eliminated. This technology relies on data from multiple sources to accurately predict patients’ likelihood of default.

      Mnet channels more resources to patients with a higher probability of repaying their debts.

      Payment Behavior Data

      Mnet also leverages data on payment behavior whether a consumer has made a large payment to a tradeline balance (or balances) during tax season. While credit behavior patterns and payment behavior data can predict how consumers are faring on their credit score, it can also be used to predict who may get a tax refund and who is likely to use a refund to pay down delinquent balances.

      By anticipating who is likely to receive a refund and use it to pay down debt, Mnet can tailor its messaging, call outreach, and mailings to the right consumers.

      By assessing patients’ unique financial situation, Mnet can help optimize collection yield as it will be able to:

      • Focus on accounts with medium to high probability to pay
      • Determine patient ability and willingness to pay
      • Classify patient accounts into the optimal payment workflow

      Simplified payment process with financial technology

      Mnet has over 15 years of experience in optimizing patient collections through innovative financing solutions that leverage technology to simplify the payment process for patients and providers.

      Patients are always looking for flexible and hassle-free means of payment. Mnet lets patients have easy access to an interactive online account that provides actionable data on their financial obligations and makes it easy for them to make payments. Actionable data, such as what is covered by their insurance plans, payments due, and the option of a flexible payment plan are made available to patients.


      Strategies for Better Patient Financial Engagement Across Different Generations

      As healthcare consumerism continues to rise, ensuring patients have great financial experiences is essential for them to meet their financial obligations. Providers now need to develop better strategies for engaging patients in order to protect their bottom line.

      A 2019 Patient Finance survey of 1,000 patient respondents conducted by ORC International revealed that 2 in 5 consumers would switch healthcare providers if it meant they could have access to financing and payment plans.

      In addition, a TransUnion survey also found that nearly three-quarters of younger individuals did not pay their patient financial responsibility in full in 2016.

      Better patient engagement can significantly improve patient outcomes and boost the bottom line. For providers to provide effective patient engagement, they must understand some subtle; and some not-so-subtle differences in generations.

      By understanding generational trends and preferences, providers will be able to forge better relationships with their patients. Key differences may include habits and preferences related to technology, communications, decision-making, and payments.

      Here are some patient financial engagement strategies to consider:

      More Frequent Communication

      According to a survey conducted by Intrado, 64% of Baby Boomers say they wanted providers to communicate more often between appointments. Surprisingly, even more Millennials than boomers say they want to engage with their doctors between appointments as 76% of Millennials wish for more frequent communication.

      Online and mobile channels are key to providing frequent communication. According to a 2017 study by LivePerson, 65% of Gen Z and Millennials globally (the U.S figure is even higher at 73.7%) are more likely to communicate via email, text, and social media than in person. Another survey found Millennials prefer texting over email, phone, and social media to communicate with businesses.

      Price Transparency Upfront

      The TransUnion Healthcare multi-generational survey found that nearly half of Millennials (46%) would be more likely to pay their medical bills if they were provided an estimate of their healthcare costs at the point of service.

      A recent survey by PNC Healthcare also found that Millennials are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to request cost estimates before undergoing treatment, often checking prices at multiple locations before making a decision.

      Patient Financial Education

      In the same TransUnion survey, 57% of Millennials self-reported either ‘no understanding’ or ‘limited understanding’ of their healthcare insurance coverage, compared to 42% of Baby Boomers who said the same.

      Millennials do not have a good grasp of different types of health plans or basic health literacy. This could explain in some way their low rates of paying medical bills. For example, more than half of Millennials say they don’t know how a high-deductible health plan works yet 60 percent have that type of policy, according to a survey of 1,900 US employees.

      Providers may need to use patient financial advocates to help educate patients and bridge this information gap. They also need to ensure that medical bills and all other patient financial communications do not confuse and frustrate patients.

      Here are more key differences across the generations that can help your facility to customize the financial experience for patients:

      Millennials (ages 24-35)

      When it comes to Millennials, providers need to remember that stronger connections are better when engaging with the patient. In a study of 3,000 Millennials, Nuance Art of Medicine determined that younger consumers prefer strong patient-provider connections:

      • 73% of respondents stated that adequate time for discussion constitutes a better physician visit
      • 66% stated that verbal communication of specific recommendations would also contribute to a good physician visit

      To engage Millennials, bills and other patient financial communications (e.g. newsletters and emails) could provide information and links to webinars, podcasts, seminars, and other resources on fitness, health literacy, or nutrition.

      Millennials are also looking for messages that are even more personal—one-on-one interactions. For example, offering new parents discounts for baby swimming sessions at the hospital wellness center.

      Generation X (ages 36-54)

      Those from Generation X have a skeptical and discerning nature that substantially influences their attitudes about healthcare. They are most likely to believe that physicians and facilities care more about money than about patient well-being.

      Sending them alerts about necessary follow-ups, medication adherence and even upcoming bills via text message or on a patient portal is the best way to get their attention.

      Baby Boomers (ages 55+)

      This generation engages more than is often assumed using health technology. The widespread use of smartphones and computers has influenced Baby Boomers’ adoption of technology.

      A study from athenaResearch revealed that Baby Boomers are using their patient portals to communicate with their providers. In addition, according to Pew Research, 79% of people age 50-65 go online every day or almost every day.

      Conclusion

      Considering generational differences in your strategy can help improve the patient financial experience as your facility reaches new patients, communicates with current patients, and handles billing and payment.

      Changing processes, policies, or tools to provide a better experience can bring substantial long-term benefits. Although generational trends and tendencies can be helpful, the individual needs and preferences of your patients and the specific trends in your practice ultimately trumps broad demographic profiles.

      Healthcare providers that get the patient financial experience right will be able to build patient loyalty, which means repeat business and referrals.

      However, no matter how good you do in all areas of care, if you don’t make the financial experience a helpful one, you’ve lost the patient satisfaction mark altogether.


      About Mnet Health

      We believe every patient deserves a helpful, transparent, easy-to-navigate financial experience in healthcare.

      Mnet is the premier revenue cycle management & technology provider to the surgical industry. Mnet provides customized patient-pay solutions to surgical hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. Mnet Health partners with over 900 surgical facilities nationwide and is the preferred vendor to the leading ASC management companies in the US both directly with and in support of centralized billing offices.

      Mnet’s tailor-made brand, PaySUITE, is a white-labeled payment technology platform that helps surgical facilities, and their providers grow their business by helping patients pay. Mnet’s patient-pay solutions significantly increase self-pay collections while creating a better financial experience for patients. For more information, visit mnethealth.com.