July 12, 2016

Paperless or Paper. Did You Give Them a Choice?

By CarePayment

trees choose paperless medical bills This is a tree. I say hi to it most mornings on my run up the side of Mt. Tabor in Southeast Portland, Oregon. At 150 feet tall, it’s still a baby for a giant sequoia. A big tree like this exchanges thousands of pounds of oxygen for hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide with the atmosphere each year—enough to sustain several of us. In case you’ve already pegged me for a Pacific Northwest tree hugger, it’s also home to scores of sweet little birds, cuddly squirrels, and darling, Pixar-like insects.

paper or paperless medical billTo the right is a medical bill. There are many billions of them including EOBs, monthly statements, and dunning letters that are born from the 2.5 billion medical claims generated each year. Fewer than ten percent were delivered digitally, without a paper version sent in the mail, which makes the paperless adoption rate for medical bills lower than any other sector. If it takes one tree to make 8,000 pieces of paper, then hundreds of thousands are required each year to feed our medical billing paper mill.

This woman is an average one of us. She throws away most of these bills without spending more than 10 seconds looking at them. If she’s under thirty five she might not look at any of them before throwing them away, but she’ll probably recycle them. She’ll wonder why she was sent these useless pieces of paper, but then she’ll remember she was never asked how she would like to receive this information.choose paperless medical billShe was never given the option to go paperless. She also might wonder why you would have to ask her in the first place. Why weren’t her options available through an app or at least online where she could manage her account with this provider like she manages 95% of everything else—on her phone? And why have billions of trees been sacrificed in her lifetime to produce these worthless and wasteful pieces of paper?

Next time you see her or a big, old tree like my friend above, ask yourself: how much of this inefficient correspondence is being mailed to patients like her at 46 and a half cents a pop (or lower based on scale or if you outsource). If the information about your services, what she owes, and how she can pay is easily accessible through her smartphone, she’ll appreciate it, she’ll tell all her friends immediately (and I mean all her friends at that very instant). At least that’s how she reacts to all the retailers she likes, and it’s how she might react to some of the retailers busting into the healthcare biz right now. And for those that deliver a poor experience, watch out. It’s the reverse times ten. But let’s make her happy. She’ll come back the next time she needs you, even though she’s pretty healthy right now. And healthy or not, millennials like her outnumber everyone else in the workforce.

As for trees, there’s no need to dive into the downward trend in their population. We get that. But if we don’t clearly understand the business case for providing a better digital financial experience to patients, we should prepare ourselves for the recycling bin.


Huntley McNabb
Vice President of Marketing @CarePayment