Healthcare payment processing involves accepting credit card, debit card, ACH payments, and other payment options in a variety of ways, whether it be in person, online, or over the phone.
Some medical providers that may need payment processing services include doctors, dentists, therapists, and veterinarians. Payment processors provide both the hardware and software solutions that make these services possible.
Healthcare offices have a unique business industry in that their payments often come from insurance companies, the government, and directly from patients. As time goes on, we see a trend in patients being responsible for more out-of-pocket costs.
A recent government report indicated that patients were responsible for 11.3% of healthcare expenses in 2019, or $407 billion dollars. This includes deductibles, copays, and coinsurance amounts that the patient may be responsible for.
Oftentimes, patients do not pay for services upfront or at the time of service, so it may be challenging for healthcare providers to collect payment.
Patients and healthcare establishments can work together to fulfill these financial obligations and provide convenient and flexible payment options.
Any time you are collecting personal payment information, there is a concern you will be subject to cyber-attacks. When dealing with private patient medical information, there is an even greater cause for concern.
Utilizing a system that will secure this sensitive data is paramount as a medical provider. When choosing a payment processing partner, make sure they are PCI compliant. This means the processor meets the safety standards set forth by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) to assure customer information is secure.
Cybercrimes continue to increase as more transactions are conducted digitally so securing data is paramount.
Beyond the standard concerns for protecting your customers’ data, mixing in medical records complicates payment processing. Anything from dates of birth to insurance information is considered Protected Health Information and must be further safeguarded.
You will want to look for a payment processor that provides what is known as a business associate agreement (BAA). This ensures the processor safeguards your practice with extra layers of security and has consequences for the processor if they fail to secure the data.
We will go into this in further detail later in this article.
Medical offices want to offer the utmost convenience and options to their patients to pay their bills. By providing a variety of options to patients, you increase the likelihood they will be able to pay their bills.
Providing customers with a way to pay from their home, on their own schedule is key.
With the timing of billing in the healthcare industry, statements of account may not be received by the patient until weeks later. They may want their payment to be processed instantly online so they can reconcile their own accounts.
Some payment processors will provide tools that will allow the business to automate statement reminders. This can remind patients automatically of any outstanding balances and translate to more revenue.
Not only will your cash flow increase but this frees up your staff to spend time on other tasks instead of contacting people for payment collection.
Some payment processors allow individuals to review their statement of account themselves, reducing the call volume burden on employees.
With all of this emphasis on security and compliance, healthcare providers should take notice of what measures are being taken to protect their clients’ information.
Some practices may include:
These practices and others are essential to maintaining a secure payment processing system.
Discuss what security measures your payment processor utilizes to protect your customer’s credit card and medical data.
As payment processing evolves, healthcare providers will need to keep current on the most popular methods of payment.
Depending on your business practices, you may want to consider a provider that offers some of these lesser-known but popular options:
Facilities often utilize practice management software that contains a patient's electronic health records (EHR). However, these programs often cannot process payments.
Thus, if a patient submits a payment the patient’s record of account may not be automatically updated if both systems aren’t integrated.
Look for a payment processor that is able to automatically post payments back to the patient’s statement of account. This will save office staff a considerable amount of time.
Some payment processors’ platforms are able to integrate directly with the software an office is already using to organize their patients’ accounts. If not, the data from the old database may be able to be easily migrated to the new system.
Some software can add benefits and provide functionality that goes beyond payment processing. For instance, you can automate sending statements and reminders which cuts down on the work left up to your staff.
Some payment processing software provides the ability to customize digital registration forms, cutting down on data input and paper management.
Setting up payment plans for customers and charging them on a recurring basis is another feature that is of value to healthcare providers.
If a credit card processor can provide this feature, they are more likely to collect from patients as larger sums owed are broken down into more manageable payments. To do this, the credit card information must be stored securely and the software must be able to schedule payments.
This will allow for increased cash flow to your business.
Every payment processor must charge something to stay in business, but these fees can vary greatly depending on the company you’re working with.
Some typical fees you may want to compare between potential processors include:
Though each company will differ in how they structure their rates and fees, the most important thing is transparency. You should have a clear idea of what to expect from your provider and be able to review your statement easily.
It should be noted there are also fees charged by each payment network as well. Interchange and assessment fees are set by the credit card companies and are non-negotiable.
People are not too concerned with the fine print of their contract termination until they want to part ways with their payment processor. Familiarize yourself with your obligations ahead of time so there are no surprises.
Some processors may have month-to-month contracts or no contract at all. You also want to be on the lookout for any cancellation fees.
Reading all agreements carefully and in full is critical to your business.
This may be the most undervalued quality, but it is so important.
Having live customer service available when you need it is critical in the event that something goes wrong. Nothing handicaps a business like not having technology function as it was intended.
Look for a provider that offers live help during your business hours at a minimum. Some companies offer 24/7 assistance but this may not be entirely necessary if your office hours are limited.
It may also be important to have a variety of ways available for you or your staff to get help. Some companies offer email, chat, or telephone options to customers who may need assistance.
Whenever you implement new technology in the office, there will undoubtedly be a learning curve to overcome.
You may want to choose a processor that will assist you in learning your system or provide initial training to your staff. This will cut down on the need to contact customer service later.
Also, ask how long it typically takes to learn the system. Will you need an hour of training or four?
Many of these systems are powerful tools with many features and analytical data capabilities. You don’t need to learn every feature overnight but you should be able to feel confident in your ability to navigate your setup once you are up and running.
With so many payment processors to choose from, you want to choose a partner that has a great reputation. Be sure your payment processor has an established history and isn't new to the industry.
You should do an Internet search to see if there are any reviews posted about them; either positive or negative.
Keep in mind those with negative experiences are much more likely to leave a review.
Many companies have a Better Business Bureau page even if they are not members of the association. Their database can be another good resource to review before choosing a payment processor.
Some credit card processing companies list current clients on their websites, so look to see if they currently work with any others in the medical industry. If not, you can always ask what experience they have working with healthcare providers.
Healthcare payment processing is essential in modern medical facilities. Accepting credit card payments online and in person is convenient for clients and can actually help your business manage and collect outstanding invoices.
If you’re comparing payment processors some key areas to balance are:
Changing payment processors can be disruptive to your business and complicate your bookkeeping so take the time to carefully consider the benefits and disadvantages that come with each one.
You will likely utilize the service every single day in your business, so choosing a processor that fits your business will pay dividends.
Our recommendations for payment processors that are a good fit for healthcare businesses are: