Health IT Answers features insights from Ryne Natzke, Senior Vice President of Growth and Strategy, Sphere

Read the full article: Patient Engagement Is the Key to Improving Provider Collections

Here is an excerpt:

Patient collections have long been among the most significant operational and financial headaches for medical providers – resulting in lost time and money.

For example, patient collections take more than a month for 74% of providers, according to a recent survey. For two-thirds of providers, patient receivables represent their primary revenue concern.

Many of providers’ challenges associated with collections stem from the “patient-as-a-payer” trend, in which patients have been forced to assume a greater proportion of their own medical bills due to a range of factors such as the proliferation of high-deductible health plans. In the survey, 65% of providers said they have seen an increase in patient financial responsibility.

However, there is another less-obvious culprit that creates additional difficulties with patient collections: manual, paper-based processes. In many ways, healthcare has failed to maintain pace with the technological advances in other industries, and the numbers tell the story: 88% of providers reported relying on manual and paper-based transactions to collect patient financial responsibility, 73% of providers use paper and manual processes for check-in, and only 23% of providers offer electronic statements, according to the survey.

In short, providers’ inability to engage patients is costing them. Patient engagement primarily depends on two factors – making time to understand patient needs, then connecting patients with the resources that fulfill those needs.

Healthcare Business Today features insights from Ryne Natzke, SVP of Growth and Strategy at Sphere.

Below is an excerpt:

With the COVID-19 pandemic exacting a substantial toll on medical practices’ revenues, savvy providers are searching for an edge that can help them stay competitive and build loyalty to retain patients.

In the wake of the pandemic, many providers were left reeling from the associated loss of revenue, reduction in patient volumes, and surging expenses. For example, in July and August, 81% of physicians in an American Medical Association survey said revenue was still lower than pre-pandemic, with an average revenue decline of 32%.

For many practices, patient engagement is that competitive edge. Engaging patients requires clinicians and staff to first take time and effort to understand patient needs, and then deliver to the patient the resources that meet those needs.

Read the full article here.

With the acquisition of Health iPASS in December of 2020, Sphere is placing a greater focus on leveraging their payment capabilities for the benefit of healthcare providers. Health iPASS is committed to creating better patient check-ins for better provider revenue, strengthened by the end-to-end patient payment support offered by Sphere. Health iPASS gets practices paid by going after those patient dollars that sometimes slip through the cracks, such as prior and residual balances and inconsistently collected copays. The best part? Health iPASS is able to do this in a way that improves the patient experience.

Taking the hassle out of health visits

The typical patient check-in and payment experience requires patients to arrive for their appointments 15 minutes early, wait in line, perhaps pay a copay, then take a clipboard back to the waiting area where they are asked to fill out any required paperwork. The patient can then expect to receive the bill for any services rendered weeks, even months later. According to HFMA, 60% of all patients never pay their bill after leaving the provider’s office through the traditional payment channels, stressing the need for better payment options pre-arrival and at the point of service. With the huge increase in patient responsibility, up 30% since 2015, providers must invest in the right tools to maximize clarity and boost patient payments.

How it works

Health iPASS delivers clear cost communication and enables patients to view and verify their insurance benefits, make payments, complete paperwork digitally, and even leave payment information on file for automatic payment of residual balances—all through their 100% mobile express check-in. They also offer self- or assisted check-in at the provider office for less tech-savvy patients. Here are just a few ways the Health iPASS platform can support pre-arrival, point of service and post-visit workflows:

Pre-arrival

  • Customized Express check-in for patients (any device, any time) including registration, insurance, payments, clinical forms and consents/policies
  • Real-time integration with Practice Management (PM) systems for schedule & demographics
  • Automated verification of insurance benefits
  • Pre check-in including pre-collection of prior balance, co-pays, etc.

Point-of-service

  • Self-service or assisted check-in using iPad-based kiosks
  • In-clinic, mobile check-in & messaging sent to patient’s phone real-time
  • Streamline the check-in process to complete registration, insurance, payments and forms
  • Checkout process to provide transparency into cost of care and collect against patient estimates
  • Real-time posting of demographic changes, payments and images to EMR/PM*

Post-visit

  • Convenient text-to-pay and email-to-pay options with fully automated electronic billing (eStatements & eBills)
  • Electronic statements are automatically generated as soon as claim is adjudicated
  • Convenient auto-pay process using card-on-file obtained at check-in
  • Client-branded online payment portal for patients
  • Flexible, recurring payment plan options for large balances

Integrated with Sphere end-to-end

With Health iPASS, Sphere users can now enjoy the patient engagement, check-in and payment features of the platform. Health iPASS provides a one-step shop that does not require medical providers to interact with third-party payment processors. This integration also enables Health iPASS to provide seamless customer service for clients with one support number to call for any payment-related concerns. The combined efforts of Sphere and Health iPASS will lead to increased collection capabilities for providers and ultimately better health outcomes for patients.

 

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2020 marks the fifteenth year that The Ponemon Institute produced its Cost of a Data Breach report.  Among the findings of the report, produced jointly by IBM security, is one that generates pause for many of those in the healthcare industry: while the average total cost for a data breach was $3.86 million across all sectors, this cost in the healthcare sector was nearly double that at $7.13 million.  This represents an increase of 10% from the 2019 study.

What does this mean for those in the healthcare sector?  Strengthening information security practices to avoid and mitigate breaches is paramount, and a key component of this effort is finding ways to diminish the cost of a breach.  In these times where many companies are closely watching the bottom line, there is good news: among the top cost-mitigating factors are three that with your people and processes.

1. Incident Response Plan and Testing

Incident response team formation and incident response testing comprise 2 of the top 3 cost mitigating factors affecting the average cost of a data breach, according to the Ponemon report.  Having a team in place before an incident occurs means that you will be able to respond and contain a breach more quickly.  A trained team will be able to react quickly and make good decisions during a breach.  You will know what steps to take, who to contact for assistance, and how to mitigate the damage a security incident can create.

2. Business Continuity Planning

Implementation of a sound business continuity program rounds out the top 3 cost mitigating factors.  Your business continuity program is essential during a data breach.  You will want to answer questions like: How will your organization continue to provide services to your customers?  Do you have data backups that can restore corrupt data, or data that is frozen by ransomware?  Are you able to ensure your systems remain secure when operating under an emergency plan?  And how do you go back to normal operations when a breach is finally over?  Planning for these questions in advance puts you in a strong position to recover effectively.

3. Employee Training

Employee training continues to be a top cost mitigating factor.  One of the most effective ways to prevent a breach is to ensure employees know their responsibility for information security, and how they can contribute on an individual basis.  They will learn how to keep your organization secure by not falling for e-mail scams like phishing and spear phishing, how to create strong passwords, and how to be cyber-aware while working from home.  A well-trained workforce with information security on the brain can not only help you avoid falling victim to a breach, but they can also be the first line of detection and help you discover an attack more quickly.

When it comes to securing your company’s systems, and your customers’ personal information, every effort counts.  Leveraging your work force’s skills and knowledge in these key areas to contribute to your breach resilience are great steps in the right direction.

The last few years have been busy ones in the privacy landscape. Several states have proposed or passed laws that give individuals a broad array of rights when it comes to the use of their personal information. Part of this new privacy movement also includes changes currently out for comment in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for HIPAA Privacy Rule released by HHS on December 10, 2020. This NPRM directly addresses privacy issues brought on or heightened by COVID.

 

 

On this HealthIT Answers webinar, you will learn:

  • How new privacy rules line up with the Notices of Enforcement Discretion around disclosures related to the COVID Pandemic and public health.
  • How do these changes fit into state-wide legislation like CCPA and other states proposing similar legislation.
  • What are the consequences for failing to maintain good privacy practices.
  • Can healthcare organizations “future proof” their privacy practices to avoid major shifts as new rules come into play.

Speakers: Dr. Heather Randall, CCEP, Chief Compliance Officer, Sphere and Lee Kim Director of Thought Advisory, HIMSS

 

Health systems have been hard hit by the economic impact of COVID-19. Unfortunately, bad debt will rise for providers as patients prioritize their bills, oftentimes putting medical bills last.

Ryne Natzke, Vice President of Strategic Accounts and Healthcare at Sphere joined Vince Martino, Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder at VisitPay to discuss 3 ways to reduce cost and recover patient revenue during a recession.

Watch

 

Want to learn more about Sphere and VisitPay? Read Sphere’s interview with Vince Martino, Chief Product Officer  of VisitPay.

Sphere and Unified Practice now offer secure, integrated payments solutions to the Holistic Medicine market.

Nashville, TN, July 7, 2020Sphere, the leading provider of end-to-end integrated payments and security software, today announced it has made a strategic investment in Unified Practice, a leading technology company that provides a fully integrated practice management and EHR system within the Holistic Medicine market. This relationship advances Sphere’s broader strategy to expand and deepen its integrated payment solutions within high-growth vertical markets, specifically healthcare.

Based in Denver, Colorado, Unified Practice provides a clinic management system for independent clinics offering Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), massage and physical therapy. Their innovative technology gives practices the tools to manage their clinic all in one place. Unified Practice will offer clients Sphere merchant processing and secure gateway, leveraging frictionless boarding to facilitate easy onboarding.

A single source for technology and merchant processing, Sphere’s secure payment platform supports:

  • Card-present and card-not-present transactions
  • Tokenization for secure data storage, card on file, and recurring payments
  • Validated Point to Point Encryption

“Unified Practice’s reputation for providing innovative technology and superior service makes them a natural fit for Sphere,” said Steve Rizzuto, Chief Executive Officer of Sphere. “The combination of Sphere and Unified Practice solutions will deliver a user-friendly and secure payment experience that is highly efficient. We are thrilled to have Unified Practice leverage Sphere’s technology platform.”

“A strategic partnership with Sphere was a no-brainer for us.” Peter Ungureanu, Chief Executive Officer of Unified Practice said. “By combining our innovative technologies, we’re able to provide our clinics with a seamless end-to-end payment processing system that streamlines the checkout process. Unified Practice’s main goal is to make managing clinics as easy as possible for our practitioners and having an integrated payment processor like Sphere in place is an important piece of that goal.”

 

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About Sphere
Sphere, powered by TrustCommerce, is a software and financial technology company providing integrated solutions that reduce friction and facilitate better and more secure commercial interactions with customers in specialized vertical markets, primarily healthcare, non-profit, transportation and education. Sphere’s integrated payments technology and security software enable its clients to process payments in a way that is highly secure and compliant, integrated with their core business software, omnichannel, and processor-neutral. Sphere’s partner-centric focused payments solutions serve small, midsize and enterprise level businesses and software companies in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. For news and thought leadership, visit the Sphere Blog.
About Unified Practice
Unified Practice is a technology company that provides a fully integrated clinic management software for TCM practitioners. At its core, Unified Practice builds technology that synchronizes and supports the complex work of Chinese Medicine practitioners from streamlining, scheduling and patient care, to unifying administrative functions and practice management. Designed to work the way practitioners think, Unified Practice understands practitioners’ unique processes to provide the support necessary to harmonize their work lives. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. For news and updates, visit the Unified Practice blog.

By Dr. Heather Mark, CCEP

Over the course of the last seven weeks, the business world has undergone a seismic shift.  Remote work, which had its advocates and detractors over the last two decades, has become a necessity.  The technology exists to make this happen, and while it hasn’t been without its obstacles, we’re living a real-time experiment in how connected we can be in isolation.  Transitions and adjustments are being made to workflows and business operations to account for this new environment.  With all these changes being made so rapidly, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that our compliance and security obligations have not changed, particularly around the protection of sensitive data (PII, PHI, etc.). That can sound daunting, but there are steps that we can all take in our remote offices to help ensure support the continued security of patient and payment related data.

  1. Use a secured WiFi network and VPN – a secure WiFi network uses a password and encryption to protect access to the network and the data that travels over the network. WPA2, or WiFi Protected Access 2, is the currently accepted security protocol for wireless networks. VPN will provide a secure connection between your computer and the company’s network.
  2. Change default passwords on home networks – when setting up your home network, make sure that you change the default passwords set up for routers, access points, and similar devices. These are often set by vendors and are easily guessable (e.g. admin, password, default).
  3. Make sure devices used for remote work have secure configurations – any devices used for working at home should have personal firewalls installed and operational. Antivirus should be installed and current and all the appropriate security patches should be installed.  These applications should be configured in such a way that they cannot be disabled by the user.
  4. Keep your work and home life separate – make sure that you’re not using personal devices for work activities and vice versa. If you do use a personal device, for example a phone, for work, make sure that you keep a separation between work information and personal activities.
  5. Maintain vigilance about malicious emails and information security – particularly during these unsettling times, hackers are looking for the easiest way into a network. That means getting people to give them access (by clicking links or opening attachments) instead of having to “break in.”  All of the same security and compliance processes and practices that apply in the office must also apply in the remote office.

It’s also important to work with partners that can support secure payments anyway you need to take them – via virtual terminal, IVR or, e-commerce.  Restricting access to payment data by using tokenization and token vaults for stored payments, and requiring multi-factor authentication for access to payment applications and data can all help to ensure that we all remain committed to securing payment data, even in non-traditional environments.

The Nilson Report, a leading publication covering payment systems worldwide, recently published an article on Sphere’s integration with VisitPay.

Click to read the full article.

Below is an excerpt.

Text to Pay in Healthcare

In 2000, the out-of-pocket expense for medical services received by workers with employer-provided health insurance ranged from 2.5% to 5% of the yearly total. In 2020, individuals with employer-provided or private insurance will be responsible for 20% to 35% of the cost of the healthcare they receive. For providers of healthcare, particularly hospitals connected to physician groups and a full range of related service providers, this means that 20% to 35% of their total revenue must be collected directly from the consumer.

Managing payments for large integrated healthcare providers is the business of VisitPay, formed 10 years ago by former Capital One credit card executives. Its software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based VisitPay platform is provided on a white-label basis at the website of the healthcare provider. It combines charges from hospitals and physician groups to present a single invoice to the patient, minus any payments covered by insurance companies.

This is a guest post from the team at VisitPay.

See how Sphere and VisitPay enable health systems to meet consumer expectations through Text to Pay. 

In this Q&A, Vincent Martino, Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder of  VisitPay, talks about the impact of the partnership on the patient financial experience.

Why is it important to offer financial support to patients via their mobile devices?

Vincent Martino: Offering mobile-enabled tools to manage and self-service healthcare billing obligations has become a baseline capability for any financial engagement strategy. Demand for a text to pay solution is clear through our continual extensive consumer research. In fact, about 50% of our VisitPay platform logins today are from a mobile device with some of our clients seeing that number approach 60%.

Many variables determine how patients manage bills and the best way to engage with these patients. Because patient preferences vary so broadly, health systems need to consistently provide patient-tailored and accurate financial information across multiple channels of communication. A one-size-fits-all billing strategy lacks the flexibility and personalization required to meet people where they are in their lives.

Now that many people – and not just younger generations – manage their lives through their mobile devices, more consumers expect to be able to manage their healthcare needs anywhere, anytime, and on their own terms. Most industries, including healthcare, are investing considerable resources to reach and engage with consumers through mobile devices.

Why is Sphere the right partner for VisitPay and how can this partnership benefit health systems and their patients?

Martino: We view Sphere as a market leader in payments technology, security and compliance. We’ve been working with Sphere for over six years to process payments securely on behalf of our health system clients. Together, we have launched a mobile payments solution called Text to Pay, which allows health systems to securely accept patient payments through text messages while integrating seamlessly with existing EMR platforms, like Epic. This solution gives patients an additional, convenient way to pay their healthcare bills.

What kind of health system can VisitPay and Sphere best serve?

Martino: Both VisitPay and Sphere are adept at serving large, multi-facility health systems. At VisitPay, we serve some of the largest health systems in the nation including Intermountain Healthcare, Texas Health Resources, Henry Ford, and Inova. These healthcare organizations typically already have a patient payment approach in place and are looking to open up new channels to collect payment easily and in a way that’s convenient for the patient. Another important aspect for our clients is that our platform is tightly integrated into their existing EMR providing ease for staff and a unified experience for patients.

How does it work and what are the key capabilities of Text to Pay?

Martino: The patient begins by opting into Text to Pay and storing a secure payment method. VisitPay monitors all billing activity and sends an automated notification via SMS when there is a new balance to pay. The system provides a great deal of flexibility in that patients can actually pay one or more balances at a time. For example, they can pay full or partial balances, create payments over time and set a payment threshold.

The system also has intelligence built in and uses automated text bot responses based on what the patient is trying to do. This gives the patient on-demand information should questions emerge while making payments. These text bots also share important information that a patient might require during the process, reducing the need to contact the health system call center.

All messaging to the patient, as well as text frequency, is customizable by the health system and configurable by the user.

How does Text to Pay help health system operations?

Martino: When patients are given self service tools, inbound calls to the health system drop significantly. Calls to make payments over the phone  become  less frequent, and fewer questions arise about how much patients owe since patient’s have insight and clarity around their bills.

An additional way Text to Pay supports health system operations is by having all payments automatically post back to the core billing system. This alleviates any need for manual intervention typically required for payment posting by revenue cycle staff. We also have created advanced proprietary logic to ensure no credit balances are created like many manual and automated payment methods do today.

What are the financial benefits for the health system offering Text to Pay? 

Martino: One of the biggest advantages of Text to Pay for a health system is getting paid faster. Text to Pay is based on automated alerts to patients, who naturally pay faster because notifications come directly to their phone, the device through which they manage their everyday lives. They schedule appointments, plan their social lives, order products and services, and manage their money through their phones. We know that patients are very responsive to texts and through the Text to Pay solution they will be alerted once their balance becomes known. With patients paying faster we anticipate days AR to go down.

How hard is it for a health system to implement Text to Pay?

Martino: We’ve designed this to be very easy to implement. It’s meant to be fully complementary to existing tools so it can be plugged into any existing payment portal, including MyChart. It doesn’t disturb or disrupt any payment solution already in place today. Additionally, deployments are easy. Some basic data is needed from the health system before automated notifications to patients can begin, and in turn we send data back to the health system for posting and reconciliation purposes . This can all be done in real time if the health system has those capabilities.

How can Text to Pay positively affect the patient’s financial experience?

Martino: There are patients who want a fast, flexible experience and are comfortable paying from their phones.  Text to Pay meets these patients where they are and in how they want to pay. We know that when patients are given options on how to pay, net promoter scores increase which in turn generates loyalty between patient and health system.

How does Text to Pay fit into and complement the broader VisitPay solution?

Martino: Text to Pay is one component of a much larger patient financial experience platform that incorporates machine learning, advanced analytics and the ability to capture data across ambulatory and acute-care billing systems. Through all our products, health systems can surface granular insights into patient preferences and expectations. This gives them the ability to present the right offer at the right time to each unique patient, while adhering to the health system’s policies. This ultimately drives higher patient satisfaction along with higher payments.

See Text to Pay in Action

To learn more about Text to Pay, click here to set up some time with a Solutions Consultant. If you are going to be at HIMSS, stop by booth #2488 to see it in action.

 

Solution enables health systems to meet consumer expectations for mobile payments while complementing EMR functionality.

Nashville, TN, February 27, 2020Sphere, Powered By TrustCommerce, a leading provider of end-to-end integrated payments and security software, today announced a new collaboration with VisitPay, the leader in patient financial engagement. Together, they have launched a mobile payments solution called Text to Pay, which offers healthcare providers the ability to securely offer and accept patient payments through text messages. This innovative solution complements existing payment channels already in place to give patients an additional, convenient way to pay their healthcare bills.

Offering mobile-enabled tools for patients to manage and self-service their medical expenses is essential for healthcare providers. With the rise of high-deductible health plans and co-pays, patients today are responsible for a greater percentage of their healthcare bills. Further, consumers’ perceptions of their healthcare experience are heavily influenced by the level of transparency and convenience provided by the billing experience. People manage their lives through their mobile devices and healthcare is no different. Consumers expect to manage their healthcare needs anywhere, anytime.

Consumers are already demonstrating their preference for mobile channels. Up to 60 percent of VisitPay platform logins are now made through a mobile device, and rapid adoption of this new Text to Pay solution is expected. “Our patients are looking for mobile payment solutions,” commented Mike Weed, senior vice president of financial operations at INTEGRIS Health. “It is important that healthcare financial leaders meet consumer expectations for a contemporary financial experience.”

To meet this demand, Text to Pay combines Sphere’s leading secure payments platform with VisitPay’s patient-centric expertise in a first of a kind solution to enable health systems to take payments over SMS without exposing any sensitive card or patient information, and utilizing a card token already collected from the patient. Without needing to download another app, consumers can pay single visits or multiple visits at a time, using credit, debit, or ACH. Payments are posted automatically to the corresponding visit in the billing system, ensuring convenience and efficiency for the provider revenue cycle team.

“Through our partnership with Sphere we can help health systems offer convenient and secure payment channels to their patients,” said Kent Ivanoff, chief executive officer of VisitPay. “Mobile access to the VisitPay platform already exceeds traditional desktop usage in some regions of the US. Text to Pay is an important solution for health systems looking to meet consumers where they are, without disrupting the core EMR environment.”

“As the payments ecosystem continues to expand and extend to new frontiers, security has to be first and foremost,” said Anthony Lucatuorto, chief revenue officer of Sphere. “We have deep experience working within EHRs like Epic and are excited to offer this complementary solution that will help our clients by integrating with their existing platform in a secure and compliant way.”

Sphere and VisitPay serve many of the most recognized large, integrated health systems composed of acute facilities, ambulatory service, and every physician specialty. VisitPay’s clients represent a total of $60 billion in annual net patient revenue.

Visit booth #2488 to see the Text to Pay demo during HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition, March 9-13, 2020 in Orlando.

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About Sphere
Sphere, powered by TrustCommerce, is a software and financial technology company providing integrated solutions that reduce friction and facilitate better and more secure commercial interactions with customers in specialized vertical markets, primarily healthcare, non-profit, transportation and education. Sphere’s integrated payments technology and security software enable its clients to process payments in a way that is highly secure and compliant, integrated with their core business software, omnichannel, and processor-neutral. Sphere’s partner-centric focused payments solutions serve small, midsize and enterprise level businesses and software companies in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. For news and thought leadership, visit the Sphere Blog.
About VisitPay
Founded in 2010, VisitPay is the leader in patient financial engagement. The company’s cloud-based platform is used by the nation’s largest and most innovative health systems to deliver transparency, choice and control to patients managing healthcare payments and transactions. Through VisitPay, patients can access a comprehensive accounting of their financial obligations, as well as critical health plan and healthcare information, via a health system-branded portal. VisitPay’s proprietary analytics tailor consistent and fully compliant financing options that meet the unique needs of patients and their families, creating a simplified billing experience that drives both higher payment rates and improved patient satisfaction scores. VisitPay’s investors include Norwest Venture Partners, Flare Capital Partners and Ascension Ventures. For more information about VisitPay, visit www.visitpay.com. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Visit our Company Blog to access case studies, thought leadership and news.

The Sphere teams will be out and about at a variety of payments and industry events. Stop by and see us! Learn more about our end-to-end integrated payment solutions, security software, payments gateway and merchant acquiring products and services.

HFMA Symposium Region 10

January 12-15, 2020 | Las Vegas

 

 

WRUG Winter Conference

February 20-21, 2020 | San Diego

HIMSS20

March 9-13, 2020 | Orlando

Visit us at Booth #2488

Parking Industry Exhibition

March 22-25, 2020 | San Diego

OCHIN Learning Forum

April 27-29, 2020 | Portland