2021 is shaping up to be a banner year for healthcare volume on the ACH Network, as medical and dental providers increasingly recognize the advantages of electronic claim payments.
“There were 361 million healthcare EFTs through the ACH Network through all of 2020. What we’ve seen this year is we are almost at that total volume through three quarters,” said Brad Smith, Nacha Senior Director, Industry Engagement and Advocacy. “I fully expect volume for healthcare payments to be over 400 million for the first time” in 2021.
Smith spoke at an Oct. 7 webinar jointly sponsored by Nacha and CAQH CORE, which develops business rules to help the healthcare industry use electronic standards. He was joined by Dr. Sara Stuefen, D.D.S., who was spotlighted in a Nacha case study.
The 2020 CAQH Index, issued in February 2021 with data from 2019, contains copious information including electronic transaction adoption rates by healthcare providers, and the cost savings that result. The 2020 Index showed adoption rates by dentists that give reason to smile.
“What we saw was that 23% of all dental claim payments were by EFT, up from 12% the previous year,” said Smith. And while there’s a cost to processing any claim payment, “The spend was 30% less industrywide, compared to the previous year,” Smith noted.
If the dental industry switched completely to EFT claim payments, the Index estimated the savings at $472 million.
“What percent of that $472 million could be coming into your practice to help patients more, to update your equipment?” Smith asked the dentists attending the webinar. “I think the cost savings to the industry, and cost savings to individual practices, is really one of the key points that we should be talking about.”
Stuefen is already convinced, having moved her Vinton, Iowa, dental practice to EFT several years ago and never looked back.
“One of the biggest reasons was faster payments,” Stuefen told the webinar. “Our biggest third-party payer in my office often pays us in one week, sometimes even less. We’ve had it where we have sent claims on a Friday afternoon at the end of our workday, and we’re often paid on Monday.”
Stuefen also likes the safety of EFT.
“Having fewer paper checks means less opportunity for a check to be lost, whether it’s in the mail or by an employee,” said Stuefen. “And it’s less opportunity for embezzlement. EFT payments can’t be signed over by an employee to themselves.”