In the new health economy, providers will go digital or go unpaid: PwC

Healthcare providers that successfully transition to the “New Health Economy” will collect more of their patients’ bills. They will complete the collections more quickly, too, enabling them to better manage cash flow and strip administrative costs to the bone.

Along the way and after arriving, they will retain more customers and attract new ones.

Meanwhile the new economics are about to accelerate as high-deductible health plans push individuals to pay for more of their own care, in turn driving providers to meet consumers where they are—which is everywhere, paying by quick clicks on mobile devices.

The forecast comes courtesy of consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which has released a new report on the fast-changing face of billings and payments in healthcare.

In contrast to other major industries like banking and retail, healthcare is “burdened with systems that do not work together and bills that are difficult for the average consumer to decipher,” reports PwC in the report’s executive summary. “The relationship between customer, healthcare provider and insurer is complex. New billing codes, known as ICD-10, will only add to the complexity. Healthcare payment marries two of the most regulated industries in the country, compounding complexity and risk.”

The firm points to PwC’s own Health Research Institute (HRI), which surveyed consumers earlier this year and found widespread dissatisfaction throughout healthcare, retail pharmacies being the lone bright spot.

The HRI report seeks to outline a roadmap for a new consumer healthcare payments system, according to the summary. HRI developed the plan after commissioning a survey of 1,000 adult Americans and interviewing executives from new and traditional healthcare organizations. It also analyzed commercial claims from 34 million Americans in the Truven Health MarketScan 2012 commercial claims database.

Key findings include:

  • Patients and affluent consumers are most dissatisfied with the healthcare billing and payment system.
  • Cost-conscious millennials are more likely than the general population to judge healthcare organizations based on their billing practices.
  • Millennials also are more likely to challenge medical bills, search for better deals and make value-based decisions.

PwC advises providers to begin building more convenience, transparency, affordability, reliability and seamlessness into their revenue cycle and payment systems.

“In the longer term, healthcare payment must fall in step with other industries,” states the executive summary. “The system needs more than patches, bolt-ons and retrofits: It needs structural change.”

Click here to read the executive summary and here to access the full report (registration required), which PwC has titled Money matters: Billing and payment for a New Health Economy