There are certain unexpected life expenses which none of us welcome. From a broken boiler, a smashed smartphone screen or problems with the car, paying out for something we haven’t planned for is never a good feeling.
But when it comes to paying for medical treatment - whether it’s a long-term health issue or something more immediate – in addition to feeling stress, worry and pressure, can bring the patient further distress in an already difficult situation.
Yet such sources of income represent important additional funds for NHS trusts which they’re must collect - in a way which makes it as easy as possible for trust employees and trust patients.
It’s often not easy for the trust employee asking for the payment to be made, and even less so for the patient, who, if paying for private treatment in an NHS trust, will tend to fall into one of 3 categories:
The amount to be paid is often significant and typically takes up valuable time to process, not to mention the need for it to be approached in an appropriately sensitive manner.
How much easier it would be if the patient was given a choice of ways to pay - or even pay ahead online, where an appointment is scheduled?
This would also help in instances where treatment has been given but the patient is unable to pay at the time. Offering the facility to pay an invoice online or by telephone afterwards or even a direct debit arrangement, you increase the opportunity to recover income, and certainly make it more likely to be recovered than if the patient was required to post a cheque, or come back into the hospital to pay.
How much time do staff spend on processing payments? What happens when trust employees are too busy to process payments, how much potential income is being delayed or even lost?
By offering a range of payment options for patients, it eases the collection for Trust employees, with the transaction itself taking up much less time. Even better, where the patient can ‘self-serve’ and make the payment at any time or from anywhere that suits them.
By having convenient payment points around the hospital which accept cards, and some mobile devices, the headache and overhead of receiving monies is reduced.
Payments made to the NHS aren’t just about medical care costs – there are many areas where the trust should receive income but there’s not been a convenient option for the person paying.
For example, it’s possible to purchase a copy of the medical images for future reference. At many trusts, this is collected either in cash at a token machine or by the administrative team, and often recorded on a written register.
Imagine a better experience for the patient if they could simply swipe their card to make a contactless payment, or even pay in advance online. The amount of cash held on-site and the associated security risks would be reduced, with quicker transactions which leave teams able to get on with other work.
Similarly, payments required from patients requiring wigs or fabric supports could be approached in a more sensitive manner – they could also either pay online from the comfort of their home, or make an easy card payment to ensure the transaction was completed as discreetly and sensitively as possible.
There are many third party-run services which could lead the way too - whether buying from a cafeteria and paying via a contactless device, or enabling them to swipe their debit cards to pay for parking. There are many opportunities to ensure a visit to the hospital doesn’t necessitate being armed with a pocketful of change.
Last, but certainly not least, is how the hospital pharmacy could benefit. Crutches, special splints, or medication should generate a deposit or prescription contribution by the patient.
Again, having card machines which generate a receipt to validate the prescription would help reduce the burden, and ensure that those monies could be reinvested in the trust. Or self service solutions that allow the payment of validated prescriptions at a kiosk to help free up valuable staff time?
There’s a general expectation now of choice – and particularly when it comes to being offered multiple ways to pay. By meeting this expectation, not only will you maximise your income opportunities but you’ll be supporting a better patient, visitor and colleague experience for all.