Friday, September 24, 2010

"What are you doing here?"

By Greg Lusch (, ibml (

With all of the banks and financial services companies participating in this week's Healthcare Payments Automation Summit (HPAS) in Boston, the healthcare providers and payers in attendance could be excused for momentarily thinking that they were in the wrong place. But they weren't, and neither were their fellow attendees from banking and financial services.

When a single market represents a whopping 17 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) -- as healthcare does -- lots of companies will be looking for ways to cash in. Banks and financial services companies are no exception. And based on my conversations at HPAS, more providers are open to help from banks in automating healthcare payments.

For instance, there was a lot of conversation at HPAS about adapting bank lockbox services to process explanation of benefits (EOBs) and other medical documents. According to the results of a survey released by IAPP-TAWPI at the event, 34 percent of healthcare providers already use a bank lockbox for healthcare payments. Undaunted by the increased security and privacy regulations under the HITECH Act, it is clear that even more banks are pushing forward with lockbox services aimed squarely at hospital and physician practice groups. In fact, the participants on a panel at the event unanimously predicted that the percentage of providers that use a bank lockbox would climb, while a speaker in another session said he expected "slow but steady" growth for both bank and provider-based EOB solutions.

And if HPAS is any indication, banks also are making headway with remote deposit capture (RDC) solutions targeted at the healthcare space, namely, rising patient self-pay and co-insurance/co-payment obligations. According to the IAPP-TAWPI survey released at HPAS, 22 percent of providers currently use RDC. Several vendors of RDC solutions exhibited at the event (Creditron, EPSON and WAUSAU were among them), and a few providers shared case studies of their experiences with the technology as part of the conference agenda (faster funds availability was cited as a key benefit). A common refrain among healthcare providers at HPAS was that lower bank fees have greatly improved the business case for RDC, while banks have done a better job of adapting their solutions to the unique needs of providers.

The role of banks in the healthcare space also was a dominant -- and sometimes heated -- topic during the Healthcare Payments Council meeting that immediately followed HPAS.

The good news for banks looking to crack the healthcare space is that most HPAS attendees believe that while automated payment transactions (claims, remittances and payments) will continue to make gains, paper will be a fact of life in the industry for the foreseeable future.

And that is why banks were at HPAS.

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