Health care systems have long looked for new ways to collect patient accounts, particularly as deductibles rise and patients find it more difficult to pay outstanding balances. A new trend involving a partnership with banks - thus removing the in-house component - appears to be gaining traction.

In St. Louis, health system SSM Health Care, for example, started a relationship with Commerce Bank in March to offer interest-free loans. Patients' credit, bank records and assets are not checked in order to qualify. The program already has resulted in loans of $6.5 million with three-year and five-year terms to approximately 4,000 patients.

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