Why would you choose to provide Patient Self Pay via Online Access? Perhaps the first reason that comes to mind is convenience. An excellent reason. Others might be efficiency, transparency, clarity, fraud protection, accuracy, record keeping, and continuity of automation. I'll touch on three: clarity, protected convenience and transparency.
Online bill paying is more than collecting money online. Information is made readily available to patients. Information that the clinic isn't trying to hide or make difficult for the patient to access but, locked in your computers, behind your billing manager's desk, does make it hard to get at. Patients necessarily feel rushed when asking about their billing. They know the clinic is busy, they are busy. They just have questions, questions that take some research and some explanation to make reasonably clear.
And we all know clarity in not readily available in the complex array of information that makes up the amount "due from patient".
Clarity in medical billing is hard to achieve regardless of the approach. A patient viewing his statement from home, with his payment records, EOBs and other information to verify against helps to improve clarity. Time is on the clinic's side when your patient is using whatever amount of his time is necessary to research and satisfy himself of the details. Meantime the clinic is not encumbered by the patient's billing inquires.
Unencumbered by piles of paperwork the patient can see through the maze to summary and supporting details. The file cabinet and billing manager's desk are transparent, revealing the necessary information for accuracy confirmation without a "convincing" argument put forth by a billing clerk. Everything in the patient's account is visible, and nothing more. The clinic is not trying to hide anything and there is no question about the date or amount of payment(s) made. The insurance company information is clearly identified whether an amount is paid, denied, adjusted or put against a deductible, it is all there.
We live in a culture that fosters increasingly packed schedules for all of us. We are fast becoming a 24/7 world of very busy people. The simple convenience of paying online is enormous for patients. And we all know happy patients return for more treatments and refer their friends.
From this patient's point of view, ease of access without regard to time of day or where I am at the moment, is more important than transparency. I want to review my account and pay my bill. I insist on privacy and security for protection of my identity, my medical information and my credit card, debit card and PayPal account information.
Not having to deal directly with the medical office does not require that I be on my best behavior. I can be frustrated and even angry over my account, and I don't have to answer any questions about when can I schedule the next appointment. Nor do I have to talk about gardening with the ever-so pleasant receptionist. I can just pay my bill. Personally speaking there are many benefits from paying my bills online.
Medical appointments take too much time just getting there, seeing a provider and getting back to work. Spending extra time to inquire and perhaps debate a bill whether in person or by phone, takes away valuable work time that most of us can ill afford or do not want to give up.
Technology is available. It all works, it works well and can be attested to by many users. One must remember, however, that Online Bill Payment Systems are driven by three things: software, processes and customer service. They cannot be made perfect. Some are less imperfect than others. Do your homework well.