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Reap these benefits with online payment option
They expect this option
Your patients probably expect that they'll be able to pay their hospital bills online, just as they do with all their other bills. "More and more, people are paying all their bills online," says Kathy Peterson, director of patient financial services at CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh, NY. "They don't have to write a check, don't have to get a stamp, and can wait till the final due date to pay. It is instantaneous."
Patients at CVPH have been asking for the ability to pay their hospital bills on line for quite some time, says Peterson.
When an online billing process was implemented, the hospital's marketing department did a large media blitz. "The local television station came and interviewed me, and had it on the evening and morning news for a day or two. It was in the newspaper as well," says Peterson.
Flyers were inserted in the billing statements for several weeks as well, to let patients know they could pay online, says Peterson. "We have a message right on the statement, as well as on our phone system when patients are on hold," she says. "Patients can also view their statements online with this tool, thereby saving paper for the statement we didn't have to mail."
Fewer incoming calls
Previously, patient accounting staff took a large number of phone calls each day from patients who wished to pay their bills via credit or debit card, says Peterson.
Patient accounting staff have been impacted the most by the new process, says Peterson, as they have significantly fewer phone calls to take each day. Also, she explains, they do not have to post these payments, because they post electronically.
With fewer incoming phone calls, staff are freed up to make more outgoing calls to collect on outstanding bills, she notes. "Patient access staff haven't been affected just yet, but they will be in the future," says Peterson. "We plan to roll out the ability to take copays at all access points via credit cards/debit cards, using the online bill pay system."
This way, says Peterson, staff will know immediately if the card is accepted or rejected and they can e-mail a receipt to the patient.
Patients are happier
Patients still have to call in to make payment arrangements or if they have questions about their bill, says Peterson, but otherwise they no longer have to make a phone call to make their payment. Patients are very happy about this, says Peterson.
"They can make the payment at their convenience," she says. "As a result, we have fewer phone calls we have to take from patients wanting to make payments over the phone."
Many patients also mailed their payments in with credit card information, and are now paying online, says Peterson. "So we no longer have that volume of mail to open for payments," she says. "The payments post via 835 electronic remittance, so nobody has to actually key the payment into the system."
In the first month of going live at CVPH, more than 600 patients paid their bill online, reports Peterson.
"This just screams that our patients want more technology and convenience at their fingertips," she says. "We are seeing all kinds of payments come through the web, large and small."
Peterson says that she expects this number to grow. Looking forward, the department has started the process of having an online registration screen, she says, where patients can pre-register for scheduled procedures/tests online.
"The success of the online bill payment tells us clearly that patients want the convenience of doing things at the time they want to, and in the comfort of their own home," says Peterson.
The department is looking into the possibility of allowing patients to have real-time online chats with customer service staff. For example, if patients look at their statement and they have a question, says Peterson, rather than calling in and waiting in a queue, they can request a real-time chat with a customer service rep.
"We are looking at how we can provide convenience to our patients, which will thereby improve satisfaction as well," says Peterson. "We will also be exploring online appointment scheduling."
[For more information, contact:
Kathy Peterson, Director, Patient Financial Services, CVPH Medical Center, Plattsburgh, NY. Phone: (518) 562-7119. Fax: (518) 562-7059. E-mail: Kpeterson@cvph.org.]