While there’s no denying that mHealth marks a major shift for the sector, there are still a few big pieces of the puzzle missing for health to catch up with the other sectors. For instance, when will we see an integration of payments?

It’s understandable that tasked with delivering better patient health outcomes with less resources and staff, savvy health organisations are now looking to other industries, who have already been on the efficiency journey, for inspiration.

And they certainly don’t have to look far. Take any modern grocery store, airport or bank and the trend is evident — customer empowerment is central to any business model needing a mobile facelift. From mobile flight check-in and mobile banking apps to tapping to pay with your phone at the supermarket self-serve checkout, customers now seamlessly control and complete the purchasing journey, start to finish.

And while there are many unknowns in mHealth [an umbrella term for the use of any mobile device to support the practice of medicine and public health], the good news is patients seem more than willing to jump on the technology driven self-empowerment bandwagon.

Patients going online

Doctors’ visits booked via online appointment booking websites have skyrocketed in the past couple of years and directory and comparison websites like HealthEngine and Healthshare are bringing choice and availability to patients mobile fingertips’ like never before.

Health management apps are also making inroads, with local vendor Medtech Global’s ManageMyHealth portal allowing patients to access their doctor’s notes online and communicate via video. But the final piece of the mHealth puzzle, integration of payments, still remains somewhat elusive here in Australia. How and when will this change?

Faster payments provide business case for mobile payments

If mobile payments can help practitioners recoup outstanding fees, then it might be sooner than we think. The average out-of-pocket patient contribution for non-Medicare billed services rose 5.4% in the March 2015 quarter, up to $59.07 per service.

While many of these fees are collected up front, for those families or individuals unable to pay on the day, an invoice is issued and payment collected at a later date. And it’s the collection of these outstanding payments that causes some of the biggest headaches for medical practice bookkeepers.

This is where smartphones could come in as a valuable aid in the collection of these payments, allowing clinics to increase receivables while reducing costs. Smartphones could also allow patients to pre-register card details, allowing their consult to be automatically billed at the end of their appointment, removing the need to come back to the busy front desk and pay.

Making Medicare Easyclaim mobile

But who can provide this solution and how far away are we from integrated payments in mHealth?  The complexities in patient billing make taking on this task not for the faint-hearted.

However with Tyro already processing more than one million Medicare claims per month through the Medicare Easyclaim service on its EFTPOS terminals, no local banking provider is better placed to bring such a solution to the market.

The likelihood is that any mHealth payment service will need practice management software vendors, banking providers like Tyro, and medical practitioners all coming together to share their expertise and capabilities in order to design the right solution.

With Apple Pay on the horizon alongside other mHealth innovations, it’s only a matter of time before these products become part of the standard trip to the GP.