BillingTree’s new boss brings digital expertise to health care payments

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The health care industry yearns for a digital antidote to paper payments, a challenge that awaits an executive who has spent years bringing businesses into the digital light.

"Health care means something different to almost everyone ... there's different types of businesses, activities and types of providers," said Christine Lee, a digital transaction veteran who took over as CEO of BillingTree earlier this year.

In that time, Lee has developed a vision for how billing can integrate with different parts of the medical experience to remove paper and bring about a long-awaited streamlining. "There's an experience that we have that we can bring into the health care business," she said.

Lee is president-elect of the Electronic Transactions Association, which works with payment industry and fintech companies on issues such as the uptake of mobile payments and omnichannel retail experiences. She additionally served as president of the Women's Network in Electronic Transactions, an organization that supports solutions to the gender gap in fintech and technology investing, and has been a Wnet board member for several years.

Her experience with association work includes diversifying industry input and collaboration, so it's "not just payment companies, but fintechs and startups," Lee said. "The ETA has done a good job of approaching new members in recent years."

Health care payments due for a checkup
Long after most consumer-facing experiences have embraced digital payments and a general omnichannel experience, health care remains mired in older procedures.

While ordering a ride via Uber or Lyft is as easy as using a mobile app and stored card credentials to automatically pay upon leaving the car, and Amazon and other retailers make it possible to shop by voice, people still fill out forms in doctors' waiting rooms, receive explanation-of-benefits statements in the mail, and write checks to cover what their health insurance does not.

For an industry on the cutting edge when it comes to treating illness and delivering diagnosis, health care providers face a substantial technology gap in other areas. More than three- quarters of providers still receive more than half of their payments by check; even the most automated providers get one in five payments by check, according to GHX.

These older process remain despite attempts from financial technology companies over the years to introduce digital payments, ample attention from fintech investors and cryptocurrency advocates; warnings from those who wish to automate the health care industry; and expenses that suggest the medical industry is losing more than 20 percent of its treatment time to paperwork.

In an attempt to fix that, Lee plans to apply her experience in digital transactions to the company's own past with B2B automation.

The biggest challenge in health care automation is that much of the experience is pieced together from tasks that must be individually modernized. BillingTree is attempting to automate these steps, then integrate them into a payments gateway that provides the same level of digital billing that exists in other industries.

"We have customers in the [accounts receivable management] space and we do collections, so there's an opportunity there," Lee said.

BillingTree has combined its billing technology with iPayX, a digital payment company that supports debit, credit, ACH, e-check, FSA and HSA payments with audit trails, documents and other information tied to billing and payments.

"If you look at radiology or assisted living or long-term care, businesses which provide services and manage incoming and outgoing payments, there are natural segues that speak to our legacy in AR management," Lee said.

Before joining BillingTree, Lee served as an advisor to SecureBuy, a digital payments risk management company, at the same time she led North American strategic partnerships and emerging markets for Moneris, a digital payment company active in automating restaurant ordering and payment experiences.

Lee, who grew up in St. Louis and graduated from Saint Louis University, has also led teams at Vantiv, which supported integrated payment projects; Bank of America; and National Processing Co., which develops the integrated card, digital and electronic invoice combination that has similarities to BillingTree's attempt to integrate health care billing payments with broader health care services.

"What we're doing is wrapping products and services around the operational aspects of the businesses," Lee said, adding that she was looking forward to working on BillingTree's API technology and making the addition of new digital services a more mainstream billing experience for health care and other verticals. "We're looking at things that the Stripes and the Squares of the world are doing and bringing that into a more traditional type of billing environment, and as we go deeper into health care, that will be our advantage."

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Digital payments Healthcare innovations Fintech
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