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The Frustrating but Promising Evolution of Patient Payments

Posted on July 5, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

As a mother of two, and someone prone to over-preparation, I like to have an accurate idea of how much a visit to the doctor’s office will cost me. Am I looking at a $40 co-pay, $100 trip to the ER, or a flat $1,000 fee for pregnancy and delivery services? It’s easy enough to call up Aetna and ask for costs of expected doctor’s visits. It’s not so easy to understand your financial obligation when you’re uninsured and calling around to find a good price on an x-ray for a potentially broken collarbone. The few providers I spoke with to get that X-ray estimate didn’t offer a flat rate, and couldn’t even give me a ballpark figure over the phone. My type A personality was extremely frustrated.

My frustration can in no way compare to the angst the Kennett family felt when Chip, the father, fell ill with lung cancer and had to turn to raising money on Kickstarter to pay the medical bills his admittedly “good” health insurance wouldn’t cover. His wife mentions in a recent Kaiser Health News article that she was overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and family who have so far donated $56,800. “We kept saying how lucky we were,” she wrote in the Team Kennett blog. “Now, just how messed up is that?”

“Messed up” is a pretty accurate description of the frustratingly hard-to-understand patient payment system that has been cobbled together by hospitals and payers over the last few decades. And I’m not even talking about the costs for care. I’m speaking strictly about the methods healthcare providers use to collect their fair share.

I came across a few vendors at the HFMA ANI show I’ve covered over the last few weeks that are trying to take a step in the right direction by offering payment collection methods tailored to patients’ lifestyles. As I told one booth rep, I’d have much rather received the text or email his company offers reminding me to pay the bill for the birth of my daughter rather than the phone call I got from the hospital just two weeks later asking for money. I think all the sleep-deprived, hormonally shell shocked new moms out there would agree that time frame is not the greatest for trying to get money out of us.

I chatted with Bird Blitch, CEO of Patientco, about the need for a more patient-friendly payment collection method after I ran into him on the show floor. Patientco, which is seeing great traction in offering hospitals a variety of payment options that allow patients to choose how they want to pay, is steadfastly working on this very problem. Blitch explained to me that one bad payment collection experience has the potential to ruin an otherwise positive patient experience for a hospital. And it seems to me that hospitals should be paying attention to that last piece of the patient visit to ensure their patients come back to their facility rather than take their business to the competitor down the street. Referrals are fast becoming a big differentiator in most hospital markets, and a bad billing experience can certainly impact word-of-mouth recommendations to friends and family.

Much is being made of the need for greater transparency into healthcare costs. I hope the industry pays just as much attention to the bill that contains those costs. It would be ideal to see them evolve hand in hand.

Top Tech Innovators Poised to Make Big Impact on Healthcare

Posted on March 28, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

I had the pleasure of attending my second Georgia Technology Summit earlier this month, an annual event presented by the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) that brings together the state’s up and coming companies, offers established businesses great networking opportunities, and presents everyone with great insight from some really A-level keynoters. (My husband, a fan of philosophy, was extremely jealous that I got to attend an event featuring Ray Kurzweil.)

As with last year’s event, healthcare IT dominated many of the presentations and exhibitor presentations. During the summit, TAG offers the top 10 in its list of Top 40 Innovative Technology Companies a chance to present, and so I thought I’d highlight those in the top 10 poised to make a big impact on healthcare.

Buzzy4shots.com
As you can tell from the image above, Buzzy4shots had a fun booth that demonstrated the kid-friendliness of their product. They also had the most kid-friendly giveaway – bright yellow kazoos, which I quickly snatched up. According to their website, their product purports to provide natural injection pain relief via “gate control,” which “works by confusing the body’s own nerves and distracting attention away from the poke, thereby dulling or eliminating sharp pain from shots, itching or burning from medications.”

While I don’t think this product is going to gain quite the level of buzz that more consumer-friendly mobile health apps have attained, I think it’s got a great business model. There will always be a need for injections, and people will likely always have a fear of needles, so I predict Buzzy4shots.com will do well if they can market themselves to the right business partners.

Catavolt
It wasn’t until I saw their stage presentation that I realized Catavolt is making a play in the healthcare vertical. According to its website, the company’s flagship product, Catavolt Extender, is a “software service that connects to your existing enterprise systems, giving you secure access to all enterprise data anywhere at any time, through tablets, smartphones and desktops. Using an online control panel you can create, customize and manage mobile and web applications without any programming.”

A Catavolt rep talked me through some of the work the company is doing with the Defense Health Information Management System EHR (AHLTA) via its partnership with SAIC. You can read more on that here.

SoloHealth
This company seems to be Atlanta’s HIT darling at the moment. Bart Foster and his team are doing a great job of strategically marketing the company, and developing partnerships that position SoloHealth for even bigger impact. You may already know that the company “provides a free healthcare access point for consumers via its nationwide network of SoloHealth Stations that offer screenings for vision, blood pressure, weight and body mass index; a symptom checker; and an overall health assessment free of charge.

As more folks become accustomed to the idea that they will ultimately need to drive their own healthcare, consumer-friendly technologies like these kiosks will start popping up more and more. Foster announced on the GTS stage that its kiosks are already in 2,500 retail locations across the U.S., with another 1,500 likely by 2014.

AirWatch
If you’re a CIO worried about BYOD, then you’ve likely had a conversation with or at least heard of AirWatch and its mobile device management solutions for healthcare. Their booth at HIMSS was hard to miss and always busy, reflecting the fact that their solutions – no matter what industry you’re in – are here to stay with good reason.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other healthcare-related innovators within TAG’s Top 40: