InstaMed’s Deirdre Ruttle: ‘Very little tolerance’ for inefficiency as Apple, Amazon make waves

Patients are getting fed up with healthcare organizations who haven’t made their payment processes and communications as convenient as other industries. With Silicon Valley giants like Apple and Amazon eyeing the healthcare space, the time to ditch old, inefficient methods is now, according to Deirdre Ruttle, vice president of strategy at payment networks company InstaMed.

Ahead of the HIMSS18 conference in Las Vegas, Ruttle spoke with HealthExec about the latest trends in healthcare payments, the focus on improving the patient’s experience and what type of organizations should be worried about outside companies potentially leading its transformation.

HealthExec: What are some of the trends you’re seeing among patients’ perception of the current payments process?

Deirdre Ruttle: The thing that’s the clearest is that consumers are not seeing the healthcare payments experience as different than the other payment experiences in their daily lives. The fact that almost everyone has a smartphone, the 24/7, always-connected world that we live in and the convenience that has brought along with it are things that consumers expect from healthcare now.

Their patience for waiting several years for healthcare to catch up is definitely waning. Consumers are absolutely seeking out the payment convenience and experience that they have in other industries when they’re looking at healthcare. Practically what I mean when I say that is they want to be able to save payment methods in a digital wallet, make payments in two clicks like they do on Amazon and make payments with their method of choice, whether that’s a credit card, checking account or a healthcare reimbursement account.

They want to receive communications the way they receive them in other industries. Email receipts, text message notifications, things like that. They want to be able to set up automatic payments, especially when it comes to health plan premiums. If you can have all those conveniences in other payment experiences, consumers really don’t have time to understand why healthcare can’t deliver the same.

Are providers and vendors not recognizing or meeting these expectations from patients?

What we’ve seen is a pretty sharp increase in the number of organizations saying we need to improve the payment experience, and how can we bring these tools like digital wallets, like automatic payments, into our organizations. Some of the trends we’re seeing from providers and payers, especially the larger ones, is hiring new positions that are focused on that digital experience. Often, you’re even seeing them bring people in from retail leaders because they know they need to have that retail mindset.

Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak is speaking at your upcoming user conference and InstaMed has worked with the company before on offering ApplePay on its platforms. How are people in the industry you speak to reacting to Apple’s moves into the healthcare space?

It is important to clarify that Steve Wozniak is coming from a perspective of his own; it’s not Apple’s any longer. I think providers and payers understand with recent headlines about major retail players wanting to change healthcare and make it better, of course there’s always questions when things come up like that, but I also think it’s creating a sense of urgency within healthcare organizations to say, “How could we be delivering a better patient experience? How could we address some of the problems that consumers are seeing? What can we be do to make this better today?”

Can traditional healthcare organizations still drive change in the industry, like embracing consumerism, or is the interest from Apple and Amazon a sign that the industry missed its chance to reform itself?

There are absolutely healthcare organizations that are poised to deliver on changes consumers are looking for. I think those are organizations that are investing in their member and patient experience and really setting it as a priority. I think the outside actors, these large retail names, coming in and saying “We’re going to fix this. We’re going to revolutionize this,” it does absolutely show the legacy, point-to-point and highly inefficient way of doing things in healthcare is not going to be an option any longer.

Through the healthcare payment lens, look at how much paper is still in healthcare. You look at how many point-to-point relationships are created instead of one to many relationships where healthcare data and money can flow among payers, providers and consumers. We have to get there and I think for organizations and vendors who don’t see that, there’s going to be very little tolerance for the legacy ways of doing things.