With more and more consumers participating in high-deductible health plans, health savings accounts, and other forms of consumer-directed health plans, physicians and laboratories have to collect substantially more money from their patients. Collecting from patients while they are still in the physician’s office is the ideal situation, but must patients don’t know what their copayment, deductible, or out-of-pocket is for any given service. In many cases, that means that the physician must bill the insurer, wait weeks for a settlement, and then bill the patient for the balance. Patients are somewhat unlikely to pay a bill for services rendered in the distant past.
To help with the problem of in-office collection, Companion Technologies has created a card reader that accepts patients’ credit, debit, or insurance cards called Companion Direct POC. These small machines feature a keypad, a screen, and a printer that prints a patient receipt. The process works in 4 quick steps:
1. Run healthcare card through Companion Direct POC healthcare card reader and enter patient-specific information
2. Patient information sent to appropriate payer
3. Plan information and eligibility sent back in seconds
4. Print receipt and eligibility information directly from card reader
The systems are inexpensive, running about $20 per month plus a 20-cent per transaction fee. For this nominal fee, doctors can insure that a patient knows what s/he owes before s/he leaves the office.
On January 9, 2007, Companion Technologies was purchased from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and sold to The Thurston Group and ABRY Partners. Now that Companion Technologies has more financing than BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina was able to provide this small part of its operations, Dark Daily predicts that Companion Technologies will expand its promotion and implementation of real-time eligibility verification systems across the country at a rapid pace.
Laboratories can expect to be effected in a number of ways by the spread of real-time eligibility verification and real-time claims settlement. First, patients will become accustomed to eligibility verification/claims settlement services from physicians offices and will expect to see them in laboratories, as well. This means laboratories must be prepared to deal with patients on a cash basis, accepting cash, credit cards, and health debit cards. Second, laboratories and pathology groups should enjoy a better collection ratio for patient-billed services because of the real-time billing. Aspiring laboratories will make proactive responses to this trend and see it as an opportunity to create a competitive advantage, keep existing clients, and grab more market share.