Medical billers and their practices have experienced widely divergent experiences in the last 12 months. From relationships with patients, overall ability to maintain and support staff, ease of collecting payments, and declining revenue, businesses have been on a virtual roller coaster.
The latest report by Inbox Health Labs examines one pivotal factor that may help billers and their practices understand the revenue effects they have been experiencing and predict what they are likely to face in the months ahead: the income level of the community in which a practice happens to be located.
Key findings include:
- Initial recovery occurred earlier for practices located in lower and middle income communities.
- Patient payments growth strengthened significantly for practices in upper income communities in the fall and winter, with levels at the end of 2020 significantly higher than they were at any point prior to the pandemic.
- Cost data differed significantly from payment data, with treatment costs billed to patients growing much more rapidly for practices in lower and upper income communities than for those in middle income communities.
- Recovery in patient payments slowed and reversed slightly for practices in lower income communities towards the end of 2020, even as treatment costs continued to grow rapidly.
The data confirms that medical billing is suffering a k-shaped recovery in which different segments of our industry experience radically different impacts and recover at radically different rates. This pattern may help to explain the pattern of a “stunted V-shaped recovery” that we identified in a previous Inbox Health Labs report published last year.
Billers and practices should offer every possible option to facilitate patients’ ability to pay, including patient payment plans so patients who may not be able to pay in full upfront can commit to a predictable future revenue stream. Profitability can be enhanced with low-cost chat and automated communication technologies to field patient questions about bills, and enormous time and labor savings can be achieved with automated digital bills and automated check handling.
COVID-19 has accelerated disruption in healthcare, and billers that have embraced proactive use of technology have been able to successfully grow their business. Research suggests that many 2020 changes are here to stay, and the same adaptations that made some billers better prepared for this crisis will provide them with more resiliency and financial flexibility in the face of future challenges.
Inbox Health’s rapidly growing proprietary data set of over 30 million unique patient bill payment interactions provides a trove of potential insights. Inbox Health Labs strives to provide valuable research to the medical biller community by analyzing the data to discover key findings that are topical to prevailing and emerging trends in the industry as well as changes that are the consequences of the major events of the day.