Whenever you write a check to a utility or other major biller, chances are that it arrives at a bank-operated lockbox where bank employees process the payment, along with the remittance information.
But if the biller is part of the healthcare industry, watch out. Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), any organization that touches medical-related data may have to bear added layers of responsibility with regard to the privacy and security of those records. That applies to bank-operated lockboxes as much as it does to hospitals.
Banks have an opportunity to make HIPAA compliance a virtue, according to John Casillas, chair of the Medical Banking Institute and executive director of the Medical Banking Project (Franklin, Tenn.), a policy research and strategic advisory firm concerned with the intersection between healthcare and banking. "It was something that the banks could not ignore," he notes. "If they can't ignore it, why not try to specialize their services for the segment?"
Given their experience at handling checks, banks have immense expertise at handling massive quantities of paper in an efficient manner. That's precisely the kind of help upon which the healthcare industry needs to draw. "In the last decade, for health data management, the focus was on sending out the claim electronically," says Casillas. "The focus now is on getting all of those paper remittances that follow you after you leave the hospital and digitizing all of it."
"If there's any industry that can provide transaction processing know-how, it's the banking industry," adds Casillas.