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What health professionals can learn from clothes retailers

16 Sep 2019
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By Libby Minogue

It’s no secret that the out-of-pocket costs of health care are a serious and sensitive issue for Australian families and the dedicated health professionals who treat them.

The numbers speak for themselves, with government statistics showing that more than a million Australians put off seeing a doctor every year because of cost.

The picture is even bleaker when you consider the families who are foregoing elective surgery, dental treatment and recommended remedies such a podiatrist-fitted orthotics.

Take an excruciatingly painful dental abscess, for example. The patient’s willingness and ability to pay for a root canal treatment and a crown can mean the difference between saving or pulling the tooth. And avoidable tooth extractions are not what modern dentists and endodontists signed up for.

However, it does not need to be that way.

Buy-now-pay-later plan

Medical professionals can now offer patients a cost-effective and ethically structured buy-now-pay-later plan similar to the layby system our grandparents might have used for their wedding dress or a new suit.

The demand for this type of option is increasing among consumers, who now expect it to be available for almost any type of transaction, from essential repairs to their swimming pool, to nice-to-haves like a new mobile phone or a new pair of shoes.

Of course, health expenses fall into the essential expenses basket and can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands.

A new service called “humm” now offers consumers access to responsible buy-now-pay-later for purchases with partner retailers from $1 to $30,000. The platform is split into two bands titled ‘Little Things’ (up to $2,000) and ‘Big Things’ (up to $30,000).

Humm is offered in over 15,000 retailers and healthcare providers across Australia, including dental, optical, chiro, physio, podiatrists, audiology, mobility and physical therapy, and pharmacies.

Two options for medical profession

Medical, dental and health practitioners have access to two humm buy-now-pay-later options. One is for costs up to $2,000, and another is for costs greater than $2,000 up to $30,000.

Ultimately, buy now, pay 

For example, patients can use the schemes to speed up their access to adult and paediatric orthotics, long-term physiotherapy, routine and specialist dentistry, joint replacements and other surgery.later products are the lowest cost way to pay for larger expenses over time. And for smaller purchases, buy now, pay later products can spread out payments over a few months so that cash-flow anguish does not add to your patients’ pain.AboutPain_Libby_FG professional pic 2 colour2

However, not all buy-now-pay-later products are created equal. When choosing a product to offer your patients, make sure your values are aligned. Consider the design of the provider’s product, and look out for important clues about their transparency, willingness to educate their consumers and the kinds of messages their marketing is sending.

Something to look out for is whether the technology enables transparency. Ideally, the solution should make it easy for your patient to see exactly how much they owe, and when the next payment is due. Patients should also be able to choose exactly when they pay to keep their cash flow as frictionless as possible.

Also, watch out for high late fees. Some products use these as a source of income rather than a deterrent.

Importantly, the experience should help make your patient feel in control of their finances and health, and not add to their stress. 

Libby Minogue is the Chief Revenue Officer at flexigroup, the pioneer of buy-now-pay-later in Australia, and the engine behind humm.

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About Pain does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment