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Patient Billing Managing director interview with The Doctors Club

The Doctors’ Club spoke with Patient Billing to find out how their ethos of putting the patient at the heart of everything they do, has been really helping clinicians, surgeons, secretaries and Practice managers free up their time to grow and develop their practices.

Richard Shawyer

The Managing Director and driving force of Patient Billing is Richard Shawyer. With over 10 years’ experience in the medical billing industry, Richard’s passion for delivering a seamless end-to-end process for Healthcare Providers, and their patients, comes from his extensive knowledge of private healthcare and medical billing.

Having witnessed first-hand the many complexities and frustrations of billing, chasing and paying medical invoices, both as a patient and industry expert, Richard found a better way to simplify, modernise and streamline the process, for both clinicians and patients. Creating a company that is patient centric, essentially putting the patient at the heart of the journey, formed the keystone of Patient Billing, and remains a guiding principle for the future.

So, where did the inspiration for Patient Billing come from?

Back in 2009, before billing went online, we were still working with paper invoices, relying on fax machines and the postal service. It seems unusual now with the time and effort required, but that’s just how it was.

Doctors were spending too much of their valuable time and resources on paperwork, and losing money as a result of being unable to keep track of and chase outstanding fees. It just seemed so obvious that there must be a better solution.

Patients were confused when dealing with practices and insurers and I saw the relationships between doctors and their patients suffer. Instead of doing what doctors do best, look after their patients, they were blurring the lines between finance and providing healthcare as they were having to chase patients for fees.

The rapid improvement of technology and the internet really paved the way to bring billing online and revolutionise the industry. However, with new technology comes new processes and a steep learning curve.

Many practices just didn’t have the staff or resources to learn and implement new systems. In addition to this, many patients were unaccustomed to changing old habits. Therefore, the benefits of outsourcing these skills to experts like Patient Billing was easy to see.

What keeps you motivated every day?

Helping patients navigate the often-complex process of dealing with insurance companies and paying for their medical care is my primary motivation. Simplifying doctors’, clinicians’ and practice managers’ lives by chasing and speeding up invoice payments, so they can focus on delivering great medical care, is what keeps me excited about Patient Billing.

Having been both a long-term patient and working in the industry for over a decade, I’ve seen the frustrations and flaws in the medical profession from both sides. Being able to alleviate these annoyances is a tremendous feeling.

I know that removing stress and anxiety from an already fraught process has a huge value and impact in helping people heal and recover. It’s a tough situation having to deliver and receive bad news. Using my expertise, insight and knowledge of technology to create a service that can remove the complexity and irritation of money is such a clear and effective way to help.

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities in your industry?

COVID has become the largest challenge to not only clinicians and the restrictions imposed upon them when providing treatments, but also to the patients.

Over the last 18 months practices have seen a reduction in business, due to quieter towns and cities, and people being more cautious about entering hospitals and populated areas. Qualified managerial staff that were furloughed may have found alternative employment, leaving many practices under-staffed. And now that things are opening up again there are substantial backlogs for NHS procedures. This in turn, means that more patients are seeking private care and has resulted in an increase in self-funding patients. Consultants and doctors may be much busier with more patients that they would need to go to directly for payment. Something that can be quite damaging within the Doctor patient relationship, as it blurs the lines between healthcare and finance.

An unintended benefit of COVID has been the expansion of using video conferencing for consultations. It’s become much more familiar for patients and consultants. It’s freed medical professionals to see more patients at times that suits the patients’ needs.

Recent advancements in technology have allowed Patient Billing to not only collect outstanding payments in a simpler and more sympathetic manner to meet patients’ needs, but also allowed us to share analytics and statistics with our partners. This allows our healthcare providers to better forecast and prepare.

How has the last year been for you and your team?

I’ve got an amazing team at Patient Billing. They are so dedicated and passionate about delivering exceptional service to our customers. We continued to work throughout the pandemic, helping and supporting at one of the most difficult times we’ve ever faced. But it has been tough. For both my work family and my home family. As I’m sure it has been for everyone throughout the pandemic.

My elderly father caught COVID and has thankfully recovered. I myself have been on the exceptionally vulnerable list since the beginning. This, combined with home schooling six-year old twins, has been a challenge to say the least!

We’ve seen a lot of our doctors help the overworked NHS, which has resulted in huge stress for them and their families. But all this has only strengthened our resolve to do what we do best. Keep helping our Healthcare providers, and our patients, and continue working hard to make their healthcare journey as simple, transparent and manageable as possible.

What the last year has done for our organisation, is bring us much closer together. We know more about each other’s lives and stories. We’ve had time to get to know one other and develop a greater understanding of our personal journeys.

Throughout lockdown we started to share our step counts and were encouraged to not only do this for our own wellbeing, but also to inspire our fellow team members. As a team we felt that we had the freedom to take the time out of our day, to walk, get some fresh air where possible, and most importantly to put our mental wellbeing and health first. We shared hints and tips on staying physically and mentally active & healthy and we took time out to explore our local areas and discover hidden gems we never knew existed.

What do you see in the future for the medical industry?

I hope the much-deserved recognition and pride in the UK’s medical industry continues to flourish. Healthcare providers have always worked hard, despite unprecedented times, and continue to selflessly prioritise the patients over themselves. This epitomises our clinicians, in their fundamental dedication to saving lives, and their bravery in the face of something truly unprecedented, and inspirational.

I think the NHS waiting lists for standard and complex procedures will continue to grow, and this will unfortunately mean that we will see an increase in those that opt to self-fund or self-pay. Especially with regards to mental health and psychiatric services. Encouragingly, with the increased use of technology, those who may be too apprehensive or unable to leave home, can more easily seek care online.

With this increase in demand on Doctors’ and Consultants’ time, Private Practices will be in much greater need of skilled outsourcing and qualified, ethical billing services they can trust, such as Patient Billing.

I believe doctors, now more than ever, will be looking to work with companies they know and trust to liaise with their patients and represent them with the highest ethical and moral standards, and who put the patients at the heart of everything they do.

As practices restart their clinics and welcome back their patients and staff, I anticipate many will be eager to ensure their invoices are paid in good time, to optimise their cashflow. I’m excited for Patient Billing to continue to help manage their invoicing efficiently and ethically, to help their practices thrive.

I’m optimistic and looking forward to the future. With the great team I’ve got behind me and our fantastic innovative solutions, I know we’re well placed to help our clinicians minimise their admin so that they can focus on providing excellent healthcare to their patients, whilst also supporting them with the continued success of their busy practices.

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PMI Market Update: How specialist areas and regions have performed over the last few months

Richard Shawyer, Managing Director of Patient Billing
1st October 2020

During the initial few weeks of the first lockdown due to covid-19 we saw a continuation of invoicing for treatments and consultations that had taken place prior to the start of lockdown. Many clinicians switched from face-to-face to telephone consultations, however they carried out less treatments and invoicing was down by 60%.

As we came out of lockdown and safety measurements issued by the government eased, we have seen increasing evidence that the PMI industry is recovering:

  • a strong upturn in the number of face-to-face consultations and treatments;
  • an increase in self-pay patients with higher numbers than pre covid-19, which we ascertain is likely a result of unprecedented waiting times for NHS treatments.

There are some concerns that the number of insured patients will fall due to redundancies. This will be, in our view, short-lived due to the increase in self-pay patients and we believe that clinicians will not experience significant differences in their practice from pre covid-19 levels. Interestingly, The Economist Intelligence Unit puts pharma as the market leader from 2023 which indicates that healthcare will be very strong going forward, as opposed to the opinion of the Private Healthcare Information Network which estimates an 84% drop in private healthcare due to covid-19.

Patient Billing share the opinion of Healthcode that the market will rebound strongly. We believe we should all be optimistic and prepared for that eventuality.

Data published by Healthcode