The medical industry has traditionally relied on paper billing for its services, and many providers report it can take a month or longer to be paid. The ability to accept credit cards is crucial in streamlining the process and has been shown to increase both office and patient satisfaction.
Payment processing within the healthcare industry comes with a unique set of challenges and considerations. Privacy is a concern for any business, but medical providers also have a legal obligation to protect patient health information. For this reason, security is often a top concern for healthcare professionals that are hesitant to accept electronic payments.
Why Healthcare Providers Need Merchant Services
The ability to accept debit and credit card payments is critical for most businesses, especially in the wake of COVID, when remote and online transactions became much more commonplace. But merchant services in healthcare is especially important for several reasons:
1. Medical Providers are Paid Differently
The healthcare industry processes payments much differently from, say, a retailer. While the service is generally provided in-person, the majority of payments for those services are done online, by mail, or over the phone. This is because insurance is billed first, and it can take some time for a claim to process. Once the claim is processed, any amount not covered is then billed to the patient.
2. Patients Are Paying Out of Pocket More Often
The average patient deductible has increased by more than 65 percent in the last ten years. This means that most patients will be paying more out of pocket before their insurance even begins to cover certain services. More payments is a good thing for a business, unless you are bogged down with paper statements and checks that need to be deposited.
3. Merchant Services is Faster and More Convenient
As we discussed, it can take time for a medical claim to process through insurance. Weeks may have gone by already. Without the ability to accept a credit card, a patient or insurance company must then mail a paper check, which will take additional time. Then you must deposit the check which, depending on its size, can take several more business days to clear.
Offering patients a means to pay via credit or debit card is far more convenient than mailing in a check, and the payment will process instantly. Patients can also budget more effectively, since the payment will be withdrawn much more quickly from their account.
4. Merchant Services is Secure
A good merchant services company with experience in the healthcare field will not only keep your patient’s financial data secure, it will also help you stay up to date with industry trends regarding cyberattacks and fraud.
Many providers wonder if patient health information will be compromised in accepting electronic payments. While this is a valid concern, your merchant services provider will not require any details other than those related to the payment itself (name, address, card number, etc.). No information regarding the actual medical service or condition will be shared with the payment processor.
Cost of Healthcare Merchant Services
Because healthcare is considered a high risk industry for merchant service providers, the fees associated with accepting these payments is often higher than with other businesses. However, this additional cost is typically mitigated by the fact that providers are paid on time and with greater efficiency.
That being said, not all merchant services providers are created equal. There are instances when a payment processor may take advantage of the fact that doctors earn more on average and are too pressed for time to evaluate unnecessary fees.
If you are looking into accepting electronic payments as a healthcare provider, you will want to consult with an experienced merchant services broker. A broker works with many different merchant services providers; he or she will be able to find the best match for your business while negotiating fees and ensuring security compliance.
At Summit Payments, we are well-versed in the medical industry and the nuances related to payment processing in this field. Contact our office to discuss the next steps for your medical office.