The Future Is Now: Steve Kukulka of CarePayment On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Healthcare

Fotis Georgiadis
Nov 1, 2020 · 7 min read

By going digital, we’ve reduced the amount of paper used, engaged more patients and have integrated machine learning and AI.

Our digital first enrollment solution offers paperless program enrollment and management for patients. Patients are able to choose their preferred method of payment and communication, which reduces the lag time between billing and payment. Text-to-pay, email, Interactive Voice Response and a secure portal are all options we provide.

Cost plays a huge role in the success of our healthcare system, and I do think we’re changing it for the better. Patients are able to afford the care they need, and providers are able to increase revenue, driving down the cost of uncompensated care.

As

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As a young kid, technology always interested me. I had a very early start programming and tinkering with computers. When I was a teenager, I ran bulletin board systems out of my basement as a way to exchange games. In my early years, I was motivated by the entertainment aspect. Years later, I’m getting paid to do what I love.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It’s always been important to me to work for a company with a mission — to use technology to do something good. There was a special moment that solidified, for me, that I was part of a company making a difference in people lives.

I had only been with CarePayment for six weeks and decided to join a group of co-workers running — a relay race to Mount Hood along the coast of Oregon that usually takes 36–48 hours to complete. Talk about team building!

We had custom t-shirts made that said “Zero Percenters.” This was a nod to the fact that CarePayment offers 0.00% APR financing to patients who need help paying their medical bills over time. At the end of the race, a lady noticed our shirts and asked what “Zero Percenters” meant. After we explained our mission was to help people afford their medical care, the woman asked if we could help bring CarePayment to her hospital. Her husband had just had bypass surgery. She was on a fixed income and unable to pay her bills. She wanted to pay, but she just needed help. I can’t imagine the stress of worrying about a loved one’s health compounded with the financial burden. I knew in that moment that I was in the right place, working with the right company.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

At CarePayment our technology has a purpose. We use it to better serve customers, whether that’s health systems and hospitals or patients, our members. Early engagement is key to ensuring that healthcare providers are paid for the services they provide so that they can continue to work in the communities they serve. When we maximize the yield for providers, we help keeps the cost of healthcare down. Our intelligent account servicing workflow expands access to more patients through automated account servicing and removes obstacles to service, including traditional balance maximums and requirements for certain information that providers often do not collect, such as social security numbers. These capabilities reduce returned accounts and staff workload while increasing revenue for providers.

Early engagement is also important for patients. The sooner we can educate them on their payment options, the less time they spend paying their bills. It also alleviates a point of stress for many patients.

Our digital messaging is designed to keep patients engaged in the financial conversation starting as early as registration and throughout the billing process. We’ve found that early and frequent communication reduces payment latency, builds financial trust between patients and providers and increases patient satisfaction and loyalty.

How do you think this might change the world?

By going digital, we’ve reduced the amount of paper used, engaged more patients and have integrated machine learning and AI.

Our digital first enrollment solution offers paperless program enrollment and management for patients. Patients are able to choose their preferred method of payment and communication, which reduces the lag time between billing and payment. Text-to-pay, email, Interactive Voice Response and a secure portal are all options we provide.

Cost plays a huge role in the success of our healthcare system, and I do think we’re changing it for the better. Patients are able to afford the care they need, and providers are able to increase revenue, driving down the cost of uncompensated care.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I don’t believe there are any drawbacks to the way we use technology. We’re not doing anything with deep learning that could infringe on people’s privacy. It’s unlikely there are any negative effects.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

There wasn’t necessarily a tipping point, but an awareness over time. COVID-19 is accelerating the trend toward a 100% digital revenue cycle, just as it has for telemedicine. Many people are not comfortable receiving paper mail. Patients are more willing to engage digitally.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We need to reach the critical mass through the data that is collected by hospitals to engage patients digitally. Quality data allows us to reach patients earlier and educate them about their options. The earlier the revenue cycle can begin, the better it is for patients and providers. Patients are more satisfied with their experience, and providers are able to collect on patient balances sooner.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Healthcare providers are our key audience. Our digital advertising strategy reaches these decision makers based on the information they consume. Our creative is straightforward and points to CarePayment key differentiators like our truly 0% financing and passion for customer service.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My parents first and foremost for investing in technology and encouraging me to pursue my interests and hobbies. My wife for her unending supporting while working long hours and weekends to achieve my goals. And, two bosses: Marc Guthrie, who pushed me to be a better leader, and April Marbury, who taught me to think more broadly about the intersection of business and technology.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Many patients, especially now, are delaying care because they can’t afford the bill, or are unable to pay for the care they have already received. Patients want to take care of their health, and they want to pay for it, but sometimes they just need more time. Providing patients a zero interest program to pay for medical bills with no application allows everyone the opportunity to get the care they deserve and keep their dignity.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

- There’s no quick and easy win

- The most important thing is quality and you should never sacrifice it.

- At the end of the day, it’s more about how the tools create a compelling product or feature and less about the tools themselves

- There’s going to be late nights

- Don’t underestimate the importance of continued learning

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Greater access to healthcare. Patient healthcare costs — including both deductibles and out-of-pocket maximum payments — have increased by almost 30% percent since 2015.And, the cost of uncompensated care has more than doubled in the past 10 years. Providers and patients have the same goal of a healthier community, but too often financial complications are a barrier to access to care.

At CarePayment we work to bridge the affordability gap between healthcare providers and patients with 0.00% APR financing so people can get and pay for the care they need, when they need it, without high out-of-pocket costs getting in the way.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is from Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Depending on the interpretation it means you can’t realize all that you can do. Or, you won’t sacrifice your comfort or vanity to do it. To be successful, you have to have a big imagination and the drive to put forth the effort to achieve what you’ve imagined.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

I’ve got lots of ideas, and I’m not giving them away for free.J

How can our readers follow you on social media?

CarePayment’s LinkedIn page is the best way to stay up-to-date.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Pop Culture, Business, Tech, Wellness, & Social Impact