With COVID-19 vaccines being administered across the globe, the healthcare payments industry -- like the world population in general -- is feeling cautiously optimistic as 2021 begins. The industry faced many challenges throughout 2020, but healthcare technology companies stepped up and transformed the pandemic into an opportunity to innovate, calling the pandemic a "catalyst" to accelerate the digital transformation for healthcare.
"Going into 2021, uncertainty still looms but one thing is for certain: technology will continue to transform the healthcare landscape. Looking specifically at the financial aspects of care, we’ll see more providers embrace technology that frees them from the administrative burden associated with billing and payments."
Here are some additional highlights from his crystal ball.
Telehealth Enters the Mainstream
Telehealth has been around for some time now. Most providers will agree that healthcare is more effective when done in-person; however, there is no doubt that telehealth will now be an integral medium in providing healthcare to patients -- and not just to the patients who are physically unable to come into the provider's office.
During the pandemic, telehealth served as a lifeline to many providers who adopted the technology, adding an invaluable revenue stream as patients began postponing and cancelling routine appointments and visits to provider's offices.
"For the many healthcare providers still facing significant financial difficulties, 2021 will be a sink-or-swim year. Those who adopt and leverage modern technology, such as systems that enable telehealth, will be better poised to succeed in the months and years to come. To bolster their competitive edge, I expect to see providers focusing on improving their telehealth offerings—including finding ways to better integrate them with payments and revenue cycle technology—to offer a more convenient digital experience for patients."
And Mr. Hawkins isn't alone in this predictions; Shaji Skaria, MD of Mercy General has a similar view.
Further Consumerization of Healthcare Payments
A recent survey by Waystar provided insights from the patients perspective on their financial responsibilities when it comes to healthcare:
- Consumers are often more concerned about medical billing than the quality of care they receive
- Consumers have a strong interest in better understanding their financial responsibility
- 67% of patients are willing to explore the cost of care before going to the doctor
- 54% found that pricing estimates were not completely accurate compared to their final bill
"With the final rules on price transparency going into effect on January 1, we expect to see demand for technology that provides patients with improved visibility into healthcare bills. Patients will expect to see more accurate and personalized estimates of what they’ll owe and easier, more convenient ways to pay."
Toward Real-time Payments
Mr. Hawkins likens the possible digital transformation for healthcare to that of banking and financial services:
"Technologies that streamline and modernize payment infrastructures have made a major impact within banking and financial services to shore up back-end operations, digitize analog processes and provide better customer experiences. The healthcare industry is primed for this exact transformation, and I expect we’ll see an immense shift in how providers get paid."
With today's current healthcare payments landscape taking more than 30 days for a provider to receive payment for their services, healthcare can learn from other industries and adopt similar technologies:
"Healthcare can learn from the payments models of other industries and improve this process by tapping into the assets at their disposal. With massive data sets, technology and smart algorithms, we’ll eventually see a shift to healthcare payments occurring in near real-time—at the point-of-care—creating a more seamless, less confusing experience for patients and faster, more efficient billing processes for providers."
The Future is Tech
Simply put, technology represents the future of healthcare.
That means everything from assisting providers with patient diagnisis to streamlining the payments process for faster payments and price transparency. Many healthcare providers and RCM companies have already adopted AI and Machine Learning technologies to electronification of paper-based payments and have seen tangible results that benefit providers and patients alike.
Mr. Hawkins provides a conclusion with which we couldn't agree more:
"Technological innovation can solve the biggest challenges within healthcare payments—streamlining and modernizing how providers, insurers and patients interact with every aspect of paying and receiving payment for care. Healthcare providers owe it to themselves, and their patients, to take advantage of the technologies and data sets that can make the process easier on everyone."