There are certain unexpected life expenses which none of us welcome. From a broken boiler, a smashed smartphone screen or problems with the car, we can’t help feeling some reluctance when we have to pay for something we haven’t planned for.
That feeling is exacerbated for many when paying for medical treatment - whether it’s a long-term health issue or something more immediate, the patient needing to pay for their care may already feel some distress at their predicament and feel a distinct lack of enthusiasm about the fact it may also be making a dent in their finances.
And yet such sources of income represent important additional funds for NHS trusts which they’re entitled to, and, indeed, need to, collect - ideally in a way which makes it as easy as possible for trust employees and trust patients.
Easing the pain of payment
Given that the patient is likely already in some discomfort or even pain prior to their treatment, it’s often not a comfortable task for the trust employee asking for the payment to be made, and even less so for the patient, who, if paying for private treatment in an NHS trust, will tend to fall into one of 3 categories:
- Patients paying for their medical care themselves (including those overseas visitors not eligible for NHS treatment)
- Patients with medical insurance who are required to pay an excess, often paid directly to the NHS trust
- Patients with medical insurance with a cap on the value of treatment they may receive, who choose to cover further costs themselves.
In each of these instances, the amount to be paid is often significant and typically takes up valuable time to process, not to mention the need for it to be approached in an appropriately sensitive manner.
How much easier it would be if the patient was given a choice of convenient ways to pay - or even pay ahead online, where an appointment is scheduled?
This would also help in instances where treatment has been given but the patient is unable to pay at the time – by offering the facility to pay an invoice online or by telephone afterwards or even a direct debit arrangement, you increase the opportunity to recover income, and certainly make it more likely to be recovered than if the patient was required to post a cheque, or come back into the hospital to pay.
Reducing the pressure on trust employees
Do you know how much time staff spend on processing payments? Or, indeed, where trust employees are too busy to process payments, do you know how much potential income is being delayed or even lost?
By offering a range of payment options for patients, the associated benefit is the ease of collecting that money for Trust employees, with the transaction itself taking up much less time, especially where the patient can ‘self-serve’ and make the payment at any time or from anywhere that suits them. By having convenient payment points around the hospital which accept cards, and some mobile card devices, a good deal of the headache and overhead of receiving monies is reduced.
It’s not just about medical treatment…
Payments made to the NHS aren’t just about medical care costs – there are many areas where the trust is entitled to seek a contribution and where, traditionally, there’s not been a convenient option for the person paying. Which brings me back to the patient and how it’s possible to smooth the process of making a payment in a way where it’s as comfortable and as stress-free as possible.
Medical images and fabric supports
Let’s take the example of a patient, and the popular facility to pay for a copy of the medical images for future reference. At many trusts, this is collected either in cash at a token machine or by the administrative team, and often recorded on a written register. Imagine how much easier the experience of the patient if they could simply swipe their card to make a contactless payment, or even pay in advance online. The amount of cash held on-site and the associated security risks would be reduced, with quicker transactions which leave teams able to get on with other work.
Similarly, payments required from patients requiring wigs or fabric supports could be approached in a more sensitive manner – they could also either pay online from the comfort of their home, or make an easy card payment to ensure the transaction was completed as discreetly and sensitively as possible.
The cafeteria, parking and other third party-run services
There are many third party-run services which could lead the way too - whether making it easier for a visitor to grab a sandwich by paying via a contactless device, or enabling them to swipe their debit cards to pay for parking, there are many opportunities to ensure a visit to the hospital doesn’t necessitate being armed with a pocketful of change.
The hospital pharmacy
Last, but certainly not least, is how the hospital pharmacy could benefit. There are times where crutches, special splints, or medication should generate a deposit or prescription contribution by the patient, but where it puts extra strain on staff to administer this. Again, having card machines which generate a receipt to validate the prescription would help reduce the burden, and ensure that those monies could be reinvested in the trust. Or why not consider what many organisations are considering, with self service solutions that allow the payment of validated prescriptions at a kiosk to help free up valuable staff time?
There’s a general expectation now of choice – and particularly so when it comes to being offered multiple ways to pay. By meeting this expectation, not only will you maximise your income opportunities but you’ll be supporting a more positive patient, visitor and colleague experience for all.
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Pay360 by Capita works in partnership with an increasing number of health trusts throughout the UK and beyond, providing a range of secure, easy to use payment solutions to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Read our series of health sector thought leadership blogs and find out about our payment solutions for the health sector here