The modern world looks to be all digital. Need to pass the TSA checkpoint at the airport? Tap your smartphone containing your digital ID on their scanner to check-in. Are you eyeing that new or used SUV at the dealership and want more information? Scan the QR code taped on its window with your phone and get the most current information.   

Yet one place that continues to be decidedly non-digital, aka “analog,” is the healthcare sector. How often have you been asked to pull out that paper or plastic copy of your health insurance or Medicaid card for even the simplest of check-ins or refills? Or had to wait for a new card after you lost the old one or, worse, changed insurance providers? The continued usage of physical proof irritates medical offices, as staff are forced to make copies, deal with out-of-date information, correct errors, etc. 

The healthcare industry is turning to digital insurance cards to deal with this inconvenience for both sides. Today’s post covers what these cards are and five of their benefits.  

Health Insurance Cards vs Digital Insurance Cards

Many health insurance providers claim to provide their insured digital insurance cards. What they’re actually referring to are simply images of the patient’s health insurance cards. They are displayed through the insurer’s app and contain the following typical information: 

  • Patient’s name/identity 
  • ID #
  • Family member’s name (if main policyholder)
  • Policy group/name
  • Policy number 
  • Benefits 
  • Coverage
  • Insurance company contact info
  • Plan types

Digital insurance cards provide information similar to virtual card copies. The crucial difference is that they are not a static image

The digital insurance card usually displays a QR code. It contains all the above information and more. Medical staff simply use the QR scanner attached to their medical-grade computer to bring up patient information in their EMR system. The insured can also do the same at a patient kiosk at check-in. 

There is no need to be online to bring the patient’s card information. Medical clinics and hospitals that are online, though, can always access the most current version of the patient’s insurance, from policy number to contact info. This is possible even if the patient switches insurance. This ability is simply not possible with a typical health insurance card without a phone call.  

As Christopher Longhurst, CMO and chief digital officer at UC San Diego Health, puts it:

“There are more than 1,000 health insurance companies in the United States, each with their own insurance card format,” he said at the college’s recent digital health symposium for the SMART health insurance card. “It takes weeks to train new staff members to decipher all those different card formats, and there are often typos, which can lead to rejected insurance claims. Having a common QR code format to scan will streamline the process, reduce errors, and simplify insurance documentation for our patients and staff.”

The SMART health insurance card is the US’ first attempt with the technology, with UC San Diego Health being the first healthcare system to implement it on a trial basis. 

Benefits of Digital Insurance Cards for Healthcare

A digital insurance card’s ability to dynamically provide a patient’s most current information has numerous benefits compared to a simple digital ID image. Five such benefits include: 

Reduce expense and environmental impact

Health insurers spend millions each year printing and mailing plastic and paper cards to their customers. The processes are also environmentally damaging, from the trees used to make the mailings to burning fossil fuel in their transportation. Digital insurance cards, whose link is sent out via email or text, have no such impact on the environment and can go a long way in healthcare’s green efforts

Reduce administrative burden

Processing patient information manually is a costly affair. This includes everything from the labor involved to any errors in input. The wrong information can deny vital treatment or service to the patient or its payment by the insurance company. 

Digital insurance cards minimize all these costs since the information is entered or updated once. It can then be shared among providers, insurance companies, and other relevant parties quickly and error-free. 

Deliver insurance cards to customers faster

As mentioned previously, it can be a pain for patients to wait for new health insurance cards through the mail. Medical staff then have to update their records, which is time-consuming, with a possible chance for error. 

Digital insurance cards, on the other hand, are delivered nearly instantaneously to patients via electronic means like email. Staff personnel scan the QR code into their medical computer or tablet to bring up and upload the latest information to their records. 

Protect patient identity

Waiting for a new health insurance card through the mail is not the only disadvantage for patients. If their previous one was stolen, they become vulnerable to medical identity theft. The culprit could potentially use the card to see a provider, fill prescriptions, or file a false claim, all under your name. They may trace family members if their names are on the card or your work history via your employer. Worse, you may not know all this is happening until you get a call or letter from a provider, insurer, or other involved party. 

By their very nature, digital insurance cards are more challenging to steal than physical cards as the QR code resides in your phone. They’re more difficult to access and the app may require your login and password. And in the off-chance that you think your health insurance information has been stolen, you can easily pull it up online to monitor any changes made in real-time. 

Advanced features

Digital insurance cards can store advance directives like Durable Power of Attorney. Family members and medical personnel can always be up-to-date on what to do if the patient cannot communicate about their health treatment. Depending on the card’s setup, the patient’s will can be brought up. 

Lastly, pharmacies can bring up the patient’s most current prescriptions and even over-the-counter drug purchases. The pharmacist can do medicine reconciliation through various digital healthcare technologies to ensure no dangerous combinations. 

Closing Thoughts

Paper-and-plastic health insurance cards are as out of place in today’s digital world as a manual typewriter among computers. The healthcare sector looks to replace physical cards with a digital insurance card. The generated QR code provides the same information while providing numerous benefits like real-time information and identity protection.      

Is your medical group looking to start accepting digital insurance cards? Contact an expert at Cybernet! They can assist you in finding the right medical grade PC or tablet to work with the QR code and other features.

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