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The company pushed up its launch to help patients and providers deal with the cost of coronavirus
WellPay on Thursday officially launched with $3.8 million in funding from 8vc, Mubadala Capital-Ventures, Montage Ventures, TTCER and and Advisors.fund.
It's hard to think of anything worse than paying medical bills: they often come so long after your visit that you can barely remember what you're paying for, it's impossible to tell if they're even accurate and then there's the sticker shock of seeing what that doctor's visit actually cost you. And while all of this is bad for the patient, it's also bad for the physicians, who need these bills to get paid or they don't make money.
These are all symptoms of a much larger problem, said Mohammad Gaber, CEO and co-founder at Wellpay, a company that was built to make it easier for people to pay their medical bills.
"Over time, insurance companies and the mix of who picks up the tab for care has been shifting more and more to the consumer, and the providers are similarly facing a problem where their reimbursability from an insurance company is shrinking as well," he said.
"WellPay is a platform that helps providers streamline and give a lot of context to patients around their billing, and, on the patient side, provides them with a very modern approach to getting a lot of their bills in a single place, getting all the data that they need on what they’re being billed for and what they’re paying."
Bringing dignity back to the patient
Founded two years ago, Wellpay’s platform allows patients to upload and pay their medical bills, either right away or over time. The platform negotiates facilitates disputes on the patient's behalf, and also provides them with a plan that has zero-interest and zero-fees.
"We have built a complete payment platform that covers everything that you would think of as a modern set of payment options, from credit cards to HSAs to all different wallets. And then we built own financing platform that is probably the simplest way for anybody who needs just a little bit of assistance to get onto the right type of pay-over-time plan to spread out their payments," said Gaber.
To give an example of what WellPay does, one of the company's providers recently had a patient who didn't pay their bill for well over a year, ignoring phone calls and mail requesting payment.
"The traditional wisdom here is that this patient is refusing to pay, but the patient actually did not have any context, and what they needed was a little bit of flexibility. With the WellPay platform, they’re able to finance their entire bill in a very dignified manner," Gaber said.
"I use the word dignified because I think it’s very important. A lot of times if somebody needs flexibility they have to pick up the phone and tell people why their finances do not allow them to pay their medical bill, which I don’t think is very dignified."
WellPay was able to get that patient on a plan within just three messages by using what Gaber calls "positive consent," meaning that the platform starts by asking how someone would like to receive their bills, and then continues to drive engagement through that modality.
While the goal on the patient side is to make things convenient for them, and to reestablish trust between them and their provider, the goal for WellPay on the provider side is mainly to help them get paid as soon as possible.
"We want to make sure provider get paid as much as they can because the misnomer is that providers make a ton of money but they don’t. Net revenue for providers has been declining pretty significantly, some are down to 3 or 4 percent, and any deviation from that is pretty catastrophic for them," said Gaber.
The company also want to help providers reduce the cost of running the administrative side of getting payments from patients .
"This has a pretty important bearing on the overall healthcare cost. In healthcare, it takes about eight times the amount of people to collect the same amount of money as any other industry, because it’s just so complex. So, we want to reduce the patient component of that, which has been the fastest growing, so they’re not having to incur a lot of operating expenses to interact with patients," Gaber said.
WellPay has already been showing results: in one case, a provider that used the platform was able to from a 4 percent recovery rate to above 30 percent in only one month.
Launching early to help with coronavirus
Despite originally planning to launch in a few months, WellPay instead decided to unveil itself ahead of schedule due to the effects of the coronavirus, which Gaber said is now making the financial situation worse for both patients and physicians.
"A lot of these local businesses are struggling significantly. They want to engage with their patients because the first two quarters of the year are typically when the patient balances are their highest, people are paying down their deductibles, so we’ll work with the provider and the patient to make sure that nobody is put into a financial hardship because of medical bills while also take care of our medical provider community," he said.
One provider in the East Bay has already had to fire all of their staff because they can’t continue paying them, while another is cutting salaries of most of their physicians to keep their staff on board.
"We want to insert ourselves in the middle here, and we’re waiving all our platform fees for providers so that they can use this experience with their patients, and patients with their providers," said Gaber.
Launching now, he told me, "was the best way that we thought about how do we quickly get in here and pitch in and help out" when things are getting really bad for everyone.
"We want to get ahead of that, and say, ‘There’s a different way to have this interaction that avoids people getting into even greater financial problems.’ We don’t want them going onto revolving credit card accounts and getting into even more trouble. We don’t want providers to have to close down because they’re not able to get paid. We think it's really important that we not only take care of the healthcare side of this problem but there is an economic component, and a trust component, and probably an existential component from medical providers, that needs to be taken care of and urgently."
WellPay currently has 400 providers and over 12,000 active patients, most of whom have come from working with providers who get their patients onto the platform; now that the company has launched to the public, any patient will be able to access the service.
The human element
The company will use the new funding to expand out its engineering team, as well as to hire more patient advocates who can step in and help patients if they need it. It will grow its team from 10 employees to between 15 and 18 by the end of the year.
"There’s a human component, so there’s always a human that can jump into the conversation in real time should the patient have questions about what they’re being billed for," said Gaber. "Having somebody who can answer questions and knows about the details of medical billing is important, so we’re looking to hire some people into that team as well."
The company's ultimate mission, he said, "is that the financial barriers in healthcare start to be reduced, or disappear altogether."
"Nobody should worry about the nuisance of healthcare billing or the lack of flexibility or the lack of understanding around the financial components of healthcare. We want to start addressing those from the smallest component into some of the larger, more difficult components."
That means addressing things like price transparency, which he sees as a major barrier for patients, as well as bridging the information gap between providers, payers and patients.
"Our model is we put the patient front and center. It’s something that we’d like to see and really empower the patient with information," said Gaber. "We take the complexity out so that patients and providers can just focus on the care that they’re looking to consume or deliver."
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WellPay was founded by a passionate team of healthcare and fintech leaders to modernize and remove financial barriers from healthcare experiences.
By removing financial stress from the healthcare billing experience, our goal is to make alternative healthcare payments effortless and accessible for everyone.
Through the development of proprietary credit, payment, and patient journey management technology, WellPay’s platform is uniquely tailored to solve for better payment experiences.
WellPay enables all healthcare providers to innovate for tomorrow’s patients with effortless flexible payment options, driving superior cash flow, elevated brand experiences, and long term patient loyalty.