Quick – on which sector does the U.S. spend more than defense, education and pensions combined? You guessed it…health care.

At 22% of total U.S. spend and with total US health care expenditures expected to grow to $3.6 trillion by 2017; the health care market is massive, and relatively untapped by today’s payments and fintech innovators. There are many reasons for this – not the least of which are regulatory hurdles and health care provider resistance to change – but these are rapidly melting away and opening up an entirely new market for aggressive players.

Historically, health care has been slow to adopt new technologies and service practices outside of core medical care disciplines. Lucky for patients, a shifting marketplace is forcing hospitals to compete more like retailers for patient loyalty and wallets, and the result is widespread re-evaluation across hospital organizations, leading to some surprising revelations.

At its core, this marketplace change is being driven by the rise of patient as payor. For decades, health care providers have collected the lion’s share of their revenues from insurers, but high deductible plans now put the onus for payment on the patient. Newly responsible for paying their own way, patients are becoming more selective about their care, the quality of their health care experience, and the way in which they pay for it.

In the recent past, providers attempted to placate this new wave of consumerism in health care by improving the quality of their food, the look and feel of their rooms, and the number of staff smiles in the hallway.

But studies now show that the financial experience plays an outsize role in overall patient satisfaction. For example, of those patients that were happy with their billing and payment experience, 85% would recommend a friend to the hospital as opposed to only 15% that were unsatisfied.

The patient’s last experience with a hospital then is certainly the most lasting. Armed with that knowledge, and challenged by decreasing collections and time to payment, hospitals are now racing to build an improved financial experience as a way to compete for patients.

The best of these providers integrate billing, payments and engagement solutions to deliver an intuitive, seamless and cohesive patient financial experience on par with the best online and offline retailers.

They eliminate disjointed, invoice-like systems held over from the days of billing insurers in favor of a digitally adaptive experience that connects a pre-procedure estimate through to point of sale payment offerings and self-directed payment plans. And because these require a re-engineered versus Band Aid solution for a new environment, providers are addressing their back office integrations at the same time in order to deliver staff efficiencies and ease of use when handling billing and payment issues. The result is a platform that can increase hospital collections, drive down revenue cycle costs, and produce happier overall patients.

As leading providers define the new patient financial experience in health care, they are also paving the way for more widespread adoption and scale within the industry. That opens the door for emerging fintech and players in traditionally opaque categories to enter the space.

As patients construct ACH-driven payment plans with their medical provider, pre-pay on their credit card, or pay a bill using an EMV reader or a PayPal account at the reception desk, established payment brands have an opportunity to engage in the health care space in a more meaningful way.

Further, by mirroring their best practices in retail and e-commerce they can help drive even greater efficiencies for health care providers and continue to build a better overall patient financial experience.

Tomer Shoval is CEO of Simplee