Online payment system helps drive efficiencies

May 1, 2013

Retailers do it. Utility companies do it. Even mortgage lenders. So why not optometrists?

Retailers do it. Utility companies do it. Even mortgage lenders. So why not optometrists?

Many organizations enable customers to pay their bills electronically. While online transactions are common across most industries, eye care has been among the few exceptions.

After spending an average of $7,000 monthly on postage and collections for its 250,000 patients, Thomas Eye Group, a full service eyecare provider in Atlanta, implemented an online bill pay service. It now sends electronic statements to patients and enables them to pay their bills online with a debit or credit card.

Going paperless

The software-called PatientPay-was created by Clearwave Corp., a developer of patient information exchange software headquartered in Atlanta and is powered by Zepherella Inc., Durham, NC, which specializes in electronic payment processing. The system is among the few specifically designed for eyecare practices.

According to Thomas Eye Group, many of its patients requested a paperless billing option. While it’s premature to say how much money the practice will save, it projects a 30% savings on postage alone, which amounts to almost $30,000 a year.

Patients who are eligible to use the system can either be self-pay or covered by a single insurance plan because patients with secondary insurance are rarely billed. The service was introduced via a message on kiosks at each of the practice’s eight locations; patients use the kiosks to check in for their appointments.

User-friendly process

When enrolling, a consent screen prompts the patient, confirming that she agrees to receive electronic statements. Next, the patient enters personal information, such as her e-mail address and phone number, which are mandatory for enrollment.

Within minutes, the patient receives an e-mail from the practice, containing a link she must click on to continue the enrollment process. The patient creates a password, accepts the service’s terms and conditions, enters additional information about herself, such as age and gender, adds additional family members, if appropriate, and enters the preferred method of payment.

Once an account is set up, the patient can access the PatientPay portal to manage her payments with not only the practice but also with other participating healthcare providers. The home page offers payment alerts, reminders, and a recent payment history. Patients can edit their account information, view and pay invoices, and print receipts.

When the practice enters a bill in the system, the patient is automatically sent an e-mail notification containing a link so she can review the charges. Patients have 10 days to make a payment before the online service expires and, if needed, are sent two reminders. Patients also receive a confirmation e-mail that details the transaction and includes a link where they can view and print a detailed receipt.

However, if no online payment is made, a third and final e-mail is sent, notifying the patient that a traditional paper statement will be mailed.

During the week of the system’s debut, nearly 40 patients signed up. However, the practice expects a 50% acceptance rate among its eligible patients.ODT