Written by Clayton Bain on Jan 10, 2021
How Consumerization and Digitization Create a Massive Fintech Opportunity in Healthcare Payments
An Interview with Clayton Bain, Founder and CEO of Salucro Healthcare Solutions
As an innovative technology leader, Clayton drives the company’s strategic vision, development, and technology partnerships while building international relationships. In 2004 Clayton transformed his small web development company into one of the leading healthcare fintech companies serving some of the largest names in healthcare across the US, Canada, UK, UAE, and India.
What is the vision behind Salucro and what problems are you trying to solve?
When we think about our experiences in the retail world, we are often met with amazing digital experiences, especially online, that we tend to take for granted. Healthcare consumers come to expect these same experiences from their healthcare providers but are often met with confusing payment and billing processes, limited self-service capabilities, and payment options that do not accommodate an individual’s payment preferences or specific financial needs. While healthcare providers see these challenges, they are often focused on delivering top-notch clinical care, and may not have the IT bandwidth or expertise to drive the necessary improvements to patient payment and billing integrations. These solution and integration limitations leave many providers with a host of manual processes to manage, and less than optimal feedback related to their patient financial experiences. Our vision is to push the healthcare payments industry forward by offering innovative fintech solutions, developed specifically for the healthcare space, helping to automate manual patient and billing processes and improve brand loyalty for our healthcare customers.
How would you describe the complexities involved in processing healthcare payments vs. other industries?
The healthcare market has some incredible complexities in comparison to other industries when it comes to payment processing. The integrations can be exceedingly complex as we perform them with the expectation to achieve streamlined patient payment workflows within a provider’s existing EHR or patient accounting application. There are hundreds of applications on the market today, many with different versions and each healthcare provider or partner typically has their own customizations. When larger healthcare organizations are injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into their Epic, Cerner or Meditech investment, for example, it is incredibly important that all of their payment processing activities compleiment and work within those investments. Healthcare payment applications require an immense amount of customization and configurability as most customers serve unique and different patient populations with varying payment preferences. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. From a security and compliance standpoint, Salucro is not only managing PCI security standards, but is also achieving elite HITRUST security standards that demonstrate HIPAA compliance with respect to patient information.
Integrations with EHR and practice management systems are obviously key components of delivering seamless healthcare payment solutions. Where does Salucro stand from an integration perspective?
The Salucro Payment Platform is integration-friendly and platform-agnostic when it comes to a provider’s EHR/EMR system. From Epic, to Cerner, to internally-built systems, our ability to integrate with any existing solution helps to streamline payment posting and reconciliation, introducing efficiencies and increased collections within the systems they’ve already built. Our goal is to always deploy market-leading payment features and functionality that drive meaningful results for our customers and their patients, while adding value to the existing EHR or patient accounting system.
Who does Salucro primarily serve?
We are passionate about delivering payment technology to the healthcare market, including hospitals, health systems, physician practices, ancillary service providers, along with other revenue cycle service and technology companies. We also have partnerships with large banks, financial service providers and healthcare technology firms who have a solid foothold in the revenue cycle management market. We operate in several countries including the United States, Canada, India, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
How do you provide support for not only your customers, but also the patients through your engagement solutions?
We have an incredible team dedicated to providing support to our clients, partners, and their patients, along with value-added features within the platform that facilitate a streamlined support process. One key feature we offer is integrated live chat, available 24/7 to both client teams and their patients. Without ever leaving our payment applications, end users can reach out to our team to ask questions about specific transactions or provide login assistance, and patients can reach out from our patient-facing applications with any questions about their payment or payment plan. Our patient engagement solutions, including electronic statements and text-to-pay, support our clients in reducing manual processes and decreasing their paper statement costs. We have found that these support services not only reduce the cost to collect for providers, but also help to accelerate payment performance.
As consumers are increasingly bearing a larger portion of healthcare costs, have you seen any interesting trends around what payment methods have been adopted or used by certain patient populations? How prevalent are payment plans and lending solutions across your customer base?
With the excessive growth of high-deductible health plans, we’ve realized the importance of moving from supporting just payment transactions, to helping providers resolve the entire patient balance. We’ve recently enhanced our payment platform to guide users through the balance resolution process, and how to best facilitate access to recourse and non-recourse financing options. While clinical care is of course a top priority for providers, data from our Patient Payment Technology Report reveals that the payment and billing process is a huge factor influencing patient loyalty. We are seeing patients increasingly demand flexible and assorted payment options. While credit and debit cards (including HSA/FSA cards) were still the most preferred options, many patients reported the desire to use a number of additional payment methods, including check or ACH (28%), cash (35%), a flexible payment plan (22%), and even PayPal (26%).
What are the biggest challenges you typically face in delivering payment solutions for healthcare providers?
While we are lucky in that many healthcare providers are prioritizing the delivery of these solutions more and more, historically some common challenges have included project prioritization and finding Revenue Cycle bandwidth to make needed changes to their patient payment partner. Our healthcare provider clients often have an incredible number of projects in flight, including those with ties to clinical initiatives. Now more than ever, once we have the opportunity to tell our story and help healthcare providers see the value that our solutions can provide for their team and their patients, there are few barriers to prioritization and deployment of the technology.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business and what opportunities and/or challenges are you seeing because of it?
This pandemic has accelerated the need for technology solutions like what Salucro offers. Healthcare providers have started to lean on technology to help reduce costs and open up new revenue streams; from telehealth to concierge medicine, revenue cycle managers have adapted to a new normal as patients now expect more digitally-driven high-quality experiences. COVID-19 has forced healthcare leaders to take a closer look at their existing integrations, vendors, and internal investments around IT and patient experience to ensure they are providing care and payment options that are both safe and convenient.
What do you think are the most significant trends driving innovation in the financial side of Healthcare?
Healthcare costs continue to increase, along with the average patient liability amount for healthcare services, we hear from more and more patients that they expect their payment experience to be “like Amazon” or their favorite retail location. Creating simple, user-friendly, and flexible payment experiences with concise patient-friendly billing, that integrate EHR systems and offer new and innovative payment types is typically not a project that client IT teams are able to take on internally without significant investment and/or reprioritization of other projects. This is why we are seeing more and more healthcare providers, RCM partners, and financial institutions partner with Salucro to help bridge this gap.
The healthcare payments market is highly fragmented today – how do you see the market structure evolving?
Fragmentation is always an opportunity to innovate, bundle, and reduce operating costs. I think over the next several years you will see healthcare payment vendors, much like Salucro, begin to add complementary services and patient experiences in a way that allows healthcare systems to move from multiple vendors to one vendor for many solutions, allowing these vendors to integrate wider and deeper into healthcare systems, and providing a more comprehensive solution for healthcare providers.
What part of the healthcare payments ecosystem do you think will be most disrupted over the next 5-10 years? How?
There is still a heavy reliance on talking to a representative, whether it be at the provider or through a third-party vendor partner, to answer what should be very intuitive and streamlined responses in the healthcare payments ecosystem today. By bringing together the right data, the right intelligent technology, and the right patient engagement solutions, I believe the market will see some incredible disruptions in the coming years, allowing healthcare organizations to reduce their cost to collect and reallocate resources from patient payments to patient care.
This interview originally appeared in the FT Partners & QED Investors FinTech Industry Report – “Healthcare Payments – Consumerization and Digitization Create a Massive FinTech Opportunity.” You can download the report in its entirety here.