A huge portion of mail delivered throughout the U.S. consists of medical bills. Healthcare practices spend millions and manually send billions of medical bills through direct mail every year. And many of these bills end up delivered to the wrong address, thrown in the waste basket or simply ignored. It’s sobering to consider that it typically takes 30 days or more for a medical bill to be paid, which makes it difficult for healthcare practices to manage capital and pay their own expenses.
Enter Inbox Health: a platform designed to make it easy for patients to pay their bills on time — and avoid having a bill sent to collections — as well as make it easy for healthcare practices to get paid on time. They do this by automating the collection of money from patients for healthcare practices. Using a combination of email and SMS messages, Inbox Health helps healthcare companies cut down the amount of direct mail they’d otherwise need to send by as much as 90 percent.
But while email and SMS have proven to be extremely effective ways to make it easy for patients to pay their bills on time, there are still a number of patients who need a little more nudging.
"We started looking for a direct mail API because we needed a way to send a final notice for medical bills when a patient is unresponsive to email and SMS," says Blake Walker, co-founder and CPO at Inbox Health.
Inbox Health needed a direct mail API that would be able to coexist with their mission to reduce mail. They wanted a solution that could integrate with their billing algorithm and only send out direct mail on a when a patient wasn’t responsive to email or SMS prompts.
"We wanted to provide our customers with a direct mail solution that didn’t require them to manually print, fold and mail each statement or send out large batches of bills at one time. Instead, we wanted to give them the ability to simply push a button, or make an API call, and get the bill out to a patient immediately," says Walker. But because their customers are all in the healthcare industry, they also needed a solution that was completely HIPAA compliant.
Direct Mail: From Old School to New School
Inbox Health’s search for a vendor led them to Lob’s direct mail API. "We were really intrigued by how Lob has taken what was once an old school mailing approach, direct mail, into a new era with automation," says Walker. While Inbox Health’s mission is almost anti-paper, they’ve found that they can cut down on the unpaid patient medical bills for their customers by sending the right message at the right time, and sometimes only a physical, paper bill will do.
"Instead of just sending out mass direct mail, Lob’s API works in a very precise way," says Walker. For patients who have overdue bills, the receiving direct mail after getting an email and SMS notification gives them the nudge they may need to make a payment. “It’s a little bit psychological,” Walker explains, “While many patients will make their payment after receiving the first notification, patients who are late on a payment will often respond quickly after they get a paper bill in the mail.”
With Lob, Inbox Health also has more control over the look and feel of their medical bills, and can quickly customize all the content. With other vendors, Walker and his team aren’t able to set their own design templates for bills or test how effective different layouts are quickly. His team can try out different designs, see how they resonate and iterate over time to make changes through the API. "It’s much easier with Lob than it would be with a traditional vendor," says Walker.
Additionally, Walker and his team use Lob’s API to personalize direct mailings based on individual patients. "With other billing vendors, you just send them a spreadsheet with contact details and they send out all of the bills in a batch, without even thinking about why." Walker and his team can instead make decisions on what type of message to send patients and when based on their past communications. This way they can personalize the experience for patients and handle communication more authentically, on a case-by-case basis.
Faster Payments and a Better Customer Experience
"From our perspective, we’re using SMS and email to replace the vast majority of both medical bills sent through the mail and medical bills ending up in collections," says Walker. This saves healthcare practices money in two ways, by decreasing both the amount of time it takes for a patient to pay their bill and a number of medical bills they would otherwise have to send.
When medical bills take more than 30 days to get paid, it can cost healthcare practices hundreds to thousands of dollars to mail patients multiple reminders to pay their bill. "Using Lob lets us reduce up to 7 days off of the average time it takes for a patient to receive their bill from their doctor's office, and greatly decreases how much the practice needs to spend to get paid" says Walker.
By partnering with Lob to only send direct mail when it’s necessary, they prevent customers from spending time and resources on mailing out multiple statements. "Many of our customers come to us concerned about the cost of each mailer, but we help them understand that part of the beauty of what we’ve been able to do with Lob is achieve precision with paper statements, so that they’ll only send a tenth of the amount of mail they send now, but get the same or better results" explains Walker. With the Lob API and Inbox Health’s SMS and email notifications, healthcare practices that previously spent over $1,000 a month on direct mail now only spend $70 a month.
Additionally, Inbox Health is able to save on costs by using Lob — as well as save costs for their customers. "Before Lob, we tried printing and mailing statements with ourselves, and ultimately paid $1.15 for each letter we sent on average. With Lob we pay 95 cents or less, saving us about 17 percent on direct mail," says Walker.
Inspired by their success with direct mail through Lob, Inbox Health is now investigating other ways they can innovate to improve billing for healthcare practices. "Right now, medical practices need a better way to reimburse patients who made an overpayment," says Walker. Today, healthcare practices typically do this by writing out each check manually. Inbox Health is now looking into ways to use the Lob API to automate reimbursements to patients by check for their customers.
"At Inbox Health, we’re always looking for new ways to simplify and automate billing, so that our customers can focus on what they do best: making people healthy," says Walker.
Interested in Automating Your Direct Mail Efforts? Looking for a HIPAA compliant solution? Get in touch with the Lob team.