A new way of paying for healthcare is rapidly gaining pace and helping to fuel significant growth in self-pay business. Richard Gregory follows his introduction to point-of-sale finance last month to explain how it contributes to greater self-pay sales growth.
BMI has teamed up with Chrysalis Finance to offer POS finance
Point-of-sale (POS) finance products have been used extensively in the cosmetic and dental markets for a long time.
Both have traditionally had a significantly larger proportion of business-to-consumer (B2C) work than the acute healthcare sector, whose business has historically and predominantly been based on relationships with private medical insurers and local NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups.
The adoption of POS finance products in the acute sector has therefore been much slower to develop and was used mainly as a last resort for those patients who were struggling to afford upfront, private treatment.
An example of Spire Health’s financial product for hip replacement surgery
There was little advertising, hardly any promotion and little mention of them early in the patient journey.
But this has all now started to change as the self-pay market has grown, mainly due to the deteriorating state of NHS waiting lists. They have become a larger contributor to hospital revenues and profits.
Of course, the pandemic has exacerbated the wait times and pushed many more people down the self-funding route, making the offer of POS finance products even more important and pivotal.
The 2020 LaingBuisson self-pay survey showed that POS finance products were one of the top three drivers of self-pay according to those hospital operators who responded.
These are some ways that POS finance products benefit both self-paying patients and hospital operators and consultants alike.
Speed of treatment is being sought by those worried about waiting for NHS treatment and so seeing clearly that they can pay in different ways is essential.
This is not about affordability. It’s about choice – how do I want to pay? Do I want to avoid using my savings? Do I want to spread over time to protect cash flow? Do I want to pay interest over longer or 0% over a shorter period? It provides fantastic flexibility.
Patients are protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which means the lender is liable for the failure of the product or service.
A patient thinks: ‘If you remove my uncertainty over how to pay, then I will see more value in your product. It feels more attainable and therefore more attractive and you have removed a fundamental objection.
‘If, during my consideration stage, you have offered me greater clarity and choice of payment options, I am more likely to stick with you. I feel you are responding to my needs and helping me.’
As in the retail sector, offering POS finance products in healthcare significantly boosts sales and conversion rates.
Electing to pay using a POS finance product means the hospital operator and/or the consultant is instantly paid upfront in full. This mean no chasing, fewer patients changing their minds, no patients turning up for their treatment having not paid. There are much better processes and a not insignificant time saving
So, yes, POS finance products are growing as a key proposition in self-pay treatments. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any hospital operator who does not now offer some form of POS finance product.
But the question still remains whether hospital operators are making the most of them, which means using them as an integral part of patient choice rather than as ‘deal clinchers’ as a last resort.
If we accept that offering POS finance products extends choice to a patient, then how best can they be deployed to make self-pay more accessible?
There are four key things hospitals and consultants should do:
1Integrate any POS finance product application process into your customer relationship management (CRM) system or contact management software.
At the click of a button, the patient receives an instant email and SMS message with a payment option calculator and a pre-populated application to complete on-line.
The easier it is to apply, the quicker a patient can be accepted and the less time is spent re-entering personal data or having to access stand-alone systems and processes.
2 Use POS finance products to better promote the cost of treatment by presenting a treatment price as a monthly repayment.
As consumers, we are used to subscription-based payments. If this is promoted at the consideration stage, more patients will likely self-pay. A few hospital operators now have payment plan calculators embedded in their websites. See the examples above and below.
3Ensure that patients can check whether they would be eligible for credit as early as possible in the pathway and allow them to apply online.
Once people know they can obtain credit and how they can spread the cost, they are more comfortable with the purchasing decision.
4Ensure your self-pay advisers and practice team are fully conversant with your POS finance products’ terms and conditions and are confident to introduce these early in the process without feeling that somehow, this is distasteful.
It is of mutual benefit for hospital operators, consultants and self-paying patients alike if POS finance products are made available. Hospital operators and consultants will see their sales increase and patients can gain access to affordable treatment early.
However, making POS finance products available is not the end game; it is just a start.
The way to unlock their full potential is to put them front and centre of self-pay propositions, make them prominent on marketing both on- and offline, make
it easy to apply and integrate the process and products into the patient pathways wherever possible.
Richard Gregory (right) runs an independent healthcare consultancy, specialising in self-pay