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.

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