Nearly 80% of consumers making payments to doctors or hospitals would prefer to do so through a one-click method on their health-plan provider's website, according to data from health care payments provider InstaMed.
A full 93% of consumers want to pay health care bills online, even if it is not a one-click process or if they have to go through a bank's bill-pay site or a hospital's site instead of their insurance provider.
"Those statistics caught our attention and we see it as a continuing trend," said Chris Seib, chief technology officer and co-founder of InstaMed. "You can have a great surgeon and great care by a real nice doctor, but if it takes you four months to sort through all of the bills, then eight hours on the phone getting it straight, then that is very frustrating."
To build its 2014 health care payments report, Instamed compiled data from surveys with more than 100,000 health care providers nationwide, 3,000 nationwide and regional payers (such as insurance companies), and 1,000 consumers nationwide who had health insurance.
Health-plan providers focusing on the consumer experience will benefit by improving the payment process, Seib said. The U.S. health care payments market is expected to reach an estimated $5 trillion by 2022, according to InstaMed's report, citing Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services forecasts.
In general, providers are handling more consumer payments because of high-deductible insurance plans and the increase in coverage through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
This trend has given the health care industry more of a retail payments feel, as physicians more often provide multiple options for receiving funds directly from patients.
Payment technology can solve a key concern for consumers making health payments by making it more convenient, said Michael Trilli, senior health care analyst for Aite Group.
"The convenience is paying through channels, be it mobile or online, that they use," Trilli said. "Fixing how the information is presented to members should be considered part of the bigger digital services approach and tying that simplified presentment to payment is where it all comes together."
InstaMed can embed its payments technology into a health-plan provider's website, making it similar to what consumers experience in making bill payments through online banking, Seib said.
A majority of consumers, at 76%, say they view an online payment option as a plus when determining which health-plan provider to use, Seib said. "Consumers definitely appreciate it when they can see they owe $50 on a copay and just click right on the site to get it paid," he added.
It is more difficult for consumers to use their online banking channel to make health care payments because they still have to input information from paper statements, Seib said. "It would take a lot more than a payment processing capability to present health care bills to consumers [through a bank website]," he said.
However, as payments technology advances, banks will support the various channels health care organizations and plan providers will need to accept, including Apple Pay and Android Pay, Seib added.
As of January 2014, the Affordable Care Act called for all payers (insurance companies) to support electronic funds transfer and electronic remittance advice. These new options also benefit the providers being paid; 70% said it took more than a month to collect a payment in 2014.
The need for payment technology is not borne out of ACA, but it sheds "a different shade of grey" to the process because in addition to medical bill payments, health plans need to think about more robust ways to collect premiums, Aite's Trilli said.
"The health plan market is moving from innovators towards early adopters when it comes to bringing a better member experience on the front end and a more integrated payment technology approach to its back-end administrative processes," Trilli said.
Payers are building broader digital services for members "of which payments becomes a key piece to that approach," he added.