Keeping the lights on during COVID-19
As COVID-19 continues to cause a devastating toll globally, we are only just beginning to grasp the lasting impacts this deadly virus will have across our society.
One industry that has changed forever is health care, and in particular how health care is provisioned. In the wake of social isolation and social distancing requirements, healthcare practitioners around the world are rapidly having to adapt their businesses as they seek to support their patients in innovative ways through these difficult times. Practice owners must pivot and adapt to provide new ways for their patients to receive the care they’re used to, but in a seamless, digital way.
For example, some physiotherapy and exercise physiology clinics are recording a range of specialist videos specifically tailored to their customers and offering them as a subscription service, while others are offering heavily discounted sessions as vouchers for customers to use when social distancing measures are reduced.
The vast majority of providers, though, are turning to telehealth solutions, making the most of favourable new government announcements.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, telehealth was really starting to find its legs in Australia, with over 235,000 Medicare telehealth consultations completed in 2019 — an increase of over 43% from the year prior. As telehealth services are subsidised under the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS), this equated to over $37 million claimed by Australian healthcare professionals in 2019 alone. But COVID-19 has supercharged this adoption. The federal government has implemented a $669 million program to deliver ‘universal telehealth care’ in Australia while we navigate through COVID-19, enabling patients to use telehealth services to see their GPs, allied health professionals, medical specialists and more. This will have a significant impact in supporting patients and healthcare providers during this difficult time.
But changing business models and methods of care can be a daunting task for many, as they seek to find the software and tools that support their business. One critical but simple area of decision-making that we are seeing is how healthcare providers will accept payment in this new paradigm.
How to continue processing payments whilst transitioning services
While different providers require different models of care, one issue that remains constant is how clients are charged in a remote scenario (ie, when patients aren’t in the same room as you). There are a handful of solutions available; however, many of them aren’t necessarily designed for healthcare providers.
Here are a few tips for healthcare providers to consider when making a decision on a digital claim and payment solution.
1. Look for a cloud-based digital solution
Seek a cloud-based digital solution that isn’t tied to a physical EFTPOS terminal or to practice management software that you can’t use remotely. These are known as ‘card not present’ solutions and enable you to process credit and debit card payments when the patient’s credit card is not physically present. This is the core of what you will require.
2. Keep in mind the importance of Medicare integrations
While you’ll want to be able to charge patient credit cards, remember that a large number of services are covered by Medicare. If you bulk bill, that means you aren’t able to charge out of pocket. What you need in this case is a solution that enables both Medicare claiming and credit card payments, and both need to work without a physical terminal.
The best solutions will integrate both claiming types to make it a seamless experience for healthcare providers and their patients.
3. Remember: not all patients are digital
There are two really important pieces to consider here in ensuring you can universally cater to your patients. First, you want the ability to cater to digitally literate patients, with simple and seamless experiences like Apple Pay and Google Pay integration, which not only delivers consumer convenience but also reduces the admin burden on entering card details.
But it’s also incredibly important to ensure there are options to process credit card payments on behalf of patients, in circumstances where they may not physically be able to themselves or where they may not even have a mobile phone. We know these are circumstances that are not uncommon in health care. A great digital payment solution will have the capability for you to process payments directly on behalf of patients and have that functionality built right into the software.
4. A health-grade solution needs to be secure and private
I’d encourage practitioners to do their homework in researching the different technology and digital platforms that will ultimately make their lives easier. In a nutshell — look for a health-grade solution that not only allows you to process card payments, but also meets the needs of healthcare practitioners.
What happens post COVID-19?
COVID-19 is challenging one of the cornerstones of how our industry works: simple geography. Patients will have experienced new models of care that put them first, enabling them to reach their healthcare providers while in the comfort of their home. Providers will realise that they are able to drive great patient experiences that also give them flexibility, and the opportunity to use new models to reduce costs will appeal to a range of insurers.
As we navigate our way through this unprecedented event, we believe that many of these new models of care will stay with us in a post-COVID-19 world. While the in-person consultation isn’t going away, its role is changing. Having new models of care in our toolbelt will leave us with a stronger health system — one better placed to meet the needs of patients today and respond to challenges in the future.
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