Health IT

Could price transparency boost bill collection by physician practices?

David-Brooks-Medlio-CEO-HiResInefficiencies in billing practices and consumer confusion are two of the biggest drivers of non bill payment, according to a 2009 McKinsey report. One of the most experienced entrepreneurs in Philadelphia’s DreamIt Health accelerator, David Brooks, founder and CEO of Medlio, wants to help physician practices improve bill collection by creating more price transparency to better engage patients.

How? By giving people virtual insurance cards though a mobile and Web-based app.

The idea is that providers would be able to communicate to patients in advance what the office visit will cost, based on a patient’s insurer and plan. When the patient comes in for their appointment, the app would confirm it with the insurance company and initiate the payment process.

The app, currently in beta testing mode, is designed to better engage patients by improving communication between patients, payers and providers.


“We’re not trying to solve all the billing issues,” said Brooks. “But we are trying to facilitate trust with the consumer to make them more empowered and create a solution that earns the trust of providers.”

Bill collection from patients has been a big problem in healthcare, partly because providers don’t have the resources themselves to chase up bills and have to contract with debt collectors, with mixed results. On the other hand, costly medical expenses have chipped away at consumer finances with devastating results, like bankruptcy. As hospitals take on more risk, as the Affordable Care Act spells out, the need for more efficient bill collection is becoming more critical.

A lack of awareness of financing options is also another factor in failing to manage bills. If Medlio’s app could factor in that information, it could be better positioned to address bill payment problems in one stroke. But given the complexities in getting that information in one place it could be a consideration at a later point in the company’s development.

The challenge of bill collection is only expected to get worse, according to a Forbes article this week. Although lawmakers are working to reduce the impact on people’s credit reports, hospitals are stepping up the pressure on patients to manage their co-pays.

Getting the price transparency that Medlio’s app needs will be a challenge in itself. But Brooks is optimistic that with the shifting healthcare landscape, pricing for tests and exams will become more standardized.

Brooks’ healthcare IT knowledge has been informed by positions with medical practices to software development companies. He worked for Mercury MD, a company founded in 2001 by two doctors and became one of the pioneers of integrating disparate information into mobile information systems delivered to physicians at the point of care. The company was sold to Thompson Reuters in 2006. 

Medlio which calls Durham, North Carolina home, includes some of the staff from a previous  startup he co-founded — qliq Soft — to create secure, HIPAA compliant communication solutions for the healthcare industry.

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