It’s easy to become complacent with the technology you use in your payments work flow. Often times, you’ve been using it for so long that you forget to see if there are ways to optimize. Unfortunately, those moments of review often come only when something blows up spectacularly such as a data breach, UX error…or the only person who knew what to do leaves the company. We’re trained to look for solutions when things aren’t going well, but what about when things are going great (or at least seem to be)? When is it time to do a payments health check?

While speaking with our clients, we’ve found that many don’t fully understand their current needs. They assume that since the processes and technological solutions they have in place run smoothly, there is no need for anything further. But that’s where the payments health check becomes the most vital. Just like the reasons you’d recommend a health check-up for your patients, it is meant to be a preventative measure to keep things operating at peak efficiency and to alert you of potential problems down the road.

We’ve found that the best way to instigate a payments health check is by asking yourself four simple questions. These are some of the same questions we use in the discovery process when we’re evaluating the technology our healthcare clients are using in their payment systems.

1. How many people need to be involved to push things through? How many pairs of hands touch it?

In a perfect situation, even one pair of hands is too many, but that can be difficult and maybe even impossible to achieve. Despite that, the goal should be to remove as many touchpoints as possible. This will result in a more efficient process and eliminate bottlenecks.

The more people or departments involved, the more you run the risk of a “too many cooks” scenario. It’s not uncommon for invoices to be created by the respective department where service was rendered. Then RCM will manage invoicing, delivery and payment arrangements. Additionally, accounting will set the standards for the payment process and workflow. This can result in a cumbersome process that makes it harder for your clients to pay and for you to get paid.

2. How many steps does it take? How many clicks to get through the process?

With today’s technology, there is no reason paying an invoice needs to be difficult for the patient. In fact, the technology is available for patients to be able to pay with one click. Unfortunately, all too often we see healthcare providers who have payment portals with a dozen steps that are hard to navigate and provide poor instruction before a payment can be entered. To put it bluntly, according to a recent Black Book survey, 90 percent of patients don’t feel obligated to stay with healthcare providers who don’t meet their digital needs.

This question in the payments health check takes a look at things from the patient or payer’s perspective, an often-neglected portion of the process. It’s vital to pay attention to the workflow your patients must traverse before they can actually pay their bill. Each additional step in this process significantly decreases the likelihood of payment.

Ask yourself, what do your patients have to do in order to pay? Are payments accepted on your website? Through an outside application? By mail? By phone? Via text? Once a customer is in the payment portal, what do they need to do next? How much information do they need to provide? Do they need to create an account? How are reminders handled?

3. Are you doing more work than is necessary?

Some clients are so overly reliant on the technology they’re using that they’ll bend and twist like a circus contortionist to ensure that it still fits their process.

For example, we recently learned of a situation where an accounts receivable manager would go to their merchant service provider’s website to download the daily batch report. Once pulled, they would reformat the entire report and customize an email for three different recipients. Those recipients would then send their contributions back to the AR manager where they would be compiled with the main report and forwarded to the central business office. From there, the CBO hand-keyed the information into their accounting system and EHR, all while researching and correcting errors from the reformatting process.

Talk about some headache inducing symptoms. In this situation, the reformatting and rekeying process was accounting for 5-10 hours of extra busy work each month. Your goal should be to eliminate scenarios like this and streamline your workflow as much as possible.

4. How many people know what to do?

While being the key link in the chain may be great on an individual career level, this can be disastrous for a healthcare organization. If the knowledge of your workflow is trapped within one employee, you’re a two-week notice from everything grinding to a halt.

Quality cross training is vital. Training on the workflow should be shared and recorded. Multiple contingencies should be in place. Does your staff know who to reach out to? Who’s the main contact? If you have back-ups in place, do they have the support needed readily available?

These questions should be able to kickstart a larger conversation on the current health of your payments workflow. If you’re struggling to answer these payments health check questions comfortably, maybe it’s time to schedule a more in-depth evaluation. It’s these types of problems than can sneak up on your organization and leave you with much deeper problem than if they had been caught early on.

If any of these jump out at you as potential pain points, contact us for a more intensive review of your current process. The time to get your payments healthy is now.