More people than ever are choosing to pay by card rather than in cash in the UK. Couple that with the fact that the UK boasts the highest percentage of online sales, and spends more per household online than consumers in any other country, and it’s clear to see where payment preferences lie.
NHS trusts can make the most of this trend - although online sales statistics relate to the retail sector, the NHS has much to gain from riding the crest of the online wave to seek income they’re entitled to for paid-for services.
It’s more palatable to pay by card
Research shows that, psychologically speaking, people find it easier to pay by card than hand over their cash. This propensity to pay is particularly useful for NHS trusts to bear in mind when collecting payments, whether for medical treatment for those required to pay, to imaging services, A&E prescriptions (England only), fabric supports and so on.
I outlined in my previous blog how trusts can make it more convenient for patients to pay and this, coupled with the current trends in how we make payments, can ease the role of clinicians and administrative staff collecting monies owed.
No surcharges & flexible payments ease the pressure
With the removal of card surcharges, paying by credit card is now a more attractive way to pay, particularly for a patient able to build up loyalty points such as Avios and/or store discounts, or who would like to spread an unplanned bill across several months.
One way of doing this is by using the card facility to pay the bill over a few months but it’s also worth NHS trusts considering the option of setting up recurring card payments - where the patient signs up to a payment schedule so that the trust can debit their card by the agreed amount each month until the balance is paid. This is surprisingly easy to set up and administer and, by making it easier for patients to pay, you increase the chances of being able to collect the income you’re owed.
As a nation, we’re online-inclined
Whether it’s something to do with our often-inclement weather or another factor, UK consumers are top of the international leader board when it comes to our enthusiasm for buying online. There’s no reason why this preference wouldn’t apply to medical services.
To provide the best of user journeys for online payments, it’s important to remember how many people will wish to pay using a smartphone or tablet, and to ensure web pages are mobile-friendly. Where repeat payments apply, patients may wish to store their card details in a digital wallet to make future payments without re-entering card details, provided they have the assurance of these being stored securely in encrypted form.
Of course, we’re no longer just paying via the more traditional debit or credit card, but through other methods such as PayPal and Pay by Bank, which can all be offered to make it as easy as possible to pay. And, provided they meet with any hospital restrictions on using smartphones in certain areas, patients could even make their payment from within the hospital.
You can still include those not yet online
If you’re offering the option for patients to pay from the comfort of their own home, it’s important to remember those who don’t yet feel comfortable, or are not yet able, to go online. Payments to your trust can be made over the telephone via a member of staff, keeping the patient’s card details secure by providing the option to enter card details using the telephone keypad to avoid reading out card details over the phone. It’s also worth considering a 24/7 automated telephone payments line, where the patient can pay an invoice or balance amount using the telephone keypad or speech recognition.
Free up clinicians and staff to focus on what’s important
By offering the payment methods above, you can significantly reduce the amount of administration needed to receive payments. Real-time integration with your finance and patient record system, including automatic updating of your back-office system once the payment has been made, removes the need for re-entering payment information, with the option of being able to retrieve the balance payable to present to the patient.
We’ve come to expect choice in all areas of life, and especially in how we choose to pay for products and services, where we take quick, convenient payment methods for granted, whether it’s online, in person using Chip & PIN and contactless, or via the telephone.
With the shift in culture towards smartphone use, and the payments arena continually evolving, the time is ripe for the NHS to be able to make the most of consumer habits to maximise the income opportunities available to them.
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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