Why Mobile Payments Will Transform Health Care (for the Better)

Traditionally, the health care industry has been slow to adopt non-care-related technologies. But Tomer Shoval, co-founder and CEO of the medical bill-tracking service Simplee, predicts that the convergence of several products will soon transform health care for the better.

Shoval says that mobile billing and payment systems shorten collection cycles, boost revenue, and decrease costs for health care providers while offering greater convenience and control for patients. As a result, he expects the use of mobile billing and payment systems to increase rapidly.

In an article for VentureBeat.com, Shoval cites three main reasons fueling growth:

1. Greater adoption — Although mobile point-of-sale transactions get all of the buzz, mobile billing has been quietly been gaining traction. Since 2011, mobile bill-payment among smartphone owners has increased 41 percent, according to a survey by Fiserv. Meanwhile, 41 percent of respondents to a Western Union survey said they intend to pay more bills online this year — and 12 percent said they’d pay more bills via smartphone. Of course, health care consumers make payments both at the point of sale (such as a doctor’s office or a pharmacy) and at home through later billing, so the industry may see gains in both types of mobile payment.

2. Easier-to-navigate bills — Health care consumers are craving a simpler way to manage medical bills, which frequently leaves them with piles of papers from providers and insurance companies explaining charges and benefits, Shoval says. In fact, in a 2012 Billing Household survey, 76 percent of respondents who use their smartphones to handle household, utility, and phone bills would also like to use them to pay medical bills. By nature of the platform, mobile billing is much easier to understand than paper billing, Shoval says.

3. Mutual benefits — According to the Fiserv survey, mobile billing improves customer service while reducing costs, allowing providers to eliminate overhead, shortening the time to payment, and increasing patient engagement. It also saves patients time — and is more convenient for them. Shoval believes that mobile payment growth is inevitable, considering both sides of the transaction benefit.

How Obamacare Could Affect Mobile Payments

Other groups also predict that mobile-payment systems will transform health care in the near future.

In a report from Deloitte [PDF], experts say that when the Affordable Care Act goes into effect, there will be more individuals purchasing and paying for health care. This, combined with the fact that more employers are opting for higher-deductible plans (which places greater financial responsibility on patients), means that the health care industry needs to address its current bill-collecting problems.

Collecting payments from patients has always been a struggle for providers. On average, they collect only 35 to 65 percent of patient payments — and the rest goes unpaid, the report says. With even more of the financial burden falling on patients rather than companies, a better payment solution will be critical for providers to survive.

As providers seek to overhaul their collection systems, implementing mobile payments may be one of the best ways to help themselves and their patients, the report says.

Because younger generations are more comfortable using mobile technology, and baby boomers are quickly adopting the trend, experts predict the demand for mobile payment options will only increase.

Consumers want real-time, on-demand services, so more hospitals and doctors offices are developing self-service web portals where patients can do anything from schedule appointments to communicate with providers to pay bills.

With purchases made from mobile devices expected to grow from $1.2 billion in 2009 to $23.8 billion in 2015, according to Deloitte’s report, the health care industry would be remiss not to add mobile bill-paying options.

Although restructuring payment collection in the typically slow-moving health care industry will be a labor-intensive process, the end result should be improved bill collection and records keeping, as well as much happier patients.

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