Payment processing is one of those things that should just work. You shouldn’t really need to spend much time worrying about it and no news is good news right? The problem is that the industry is largely predatory when it comes to contracting and rates, especially with medical offices. Worse still, support is quite frequently outsourced and/or has pretty low bar for the definition of support/services.
While many medical offices run like a business, they have drastically different needs for payment processing. The average business worries about protecting customer payment information. For a medical practice, however, a breach in security compromises patient medical information. Medical offices also have strong use cases for mobile payments, embedded statement payment options, online payment options and beyond.
The distinctive payment issues facing medical offices require specific solutions. Some merchant services suit medical needs with adapted softwares, plans, and techniques. This blog discusses the most important factors to consider when hiring a merchant services company.
What are merchant services?
Merchant services address all transactions conducted between your practice and your patients. When a patient uses card or check methods to pay, these processes are handled by merchant services companies.
Typically, merchant services include:
Automated clearing house (ACH) transactions or electronic funds transfer (EFT): Your patients can pay directly from their checking account without writing a check or using a card.
Debit and credit card processing: This is the most common and valuable service that merchant services companies offer. They act as an intermediary between your practice and the credit card company and ensure the payments go through in a timely manner.
Check guarantees: While checks are easy to accept, they increase likelihood of fraudulent payments. Many merchant services companies reimburse bounced checks, thereby decreasing the associated risks.
Point of sale (POS) software and equipment: Some merchant services provide all necessary tools to process payments on-site, including medical billing software, credit card terminals, registers, and more. If your practice is interested in processing payments at the time of service, select a merchant services company that offers POS equipment and software.
Online payment portals: These days, everyone is paying online. From fast-food orders to rent payment, people like to pay through online portals. Many merchant services companies establish a secure online processor so patients can pay online.
Mobile payments: Merchant services can help your practice get set up with the latest payment methods - online / mobile wallets like Apple Pay or PayPal.
Important considerations when hiring a merchant services company
Every practice is different. What works for a large, bustling city practice won’t necessarily work for a smaller, quieter country practice. When hiring a merchant services company, consider the specific needs of your practice and patients.
Medical procedures are expensive - sometimes extremely expensive - and few patients pay everything at the time of service. Oftentimes, patients are unable to pay everything upfront, and the practice never collects the rest of the payment, damaging accounts receivable.
Find a merchant services company that establishes and integrates payment plans and recurring payments. This spares your patients from paying everything upfront, and your office from follow-up. Instead, the service bills the patient monthly until the balance has been paid. Strong venders will offer embedded systems to store card on file, and auto-run. Integrated processors can even auto-post these payments back to your billing system.
Online payment services make life easier for everyone - patients, physicians, and office staff. Patients pay on their own time (not on yours!) through portals, which frees your staff to focus on other patients.
Cut down check-out times by providing an online payment option. Choose a merchant services company that offers an online payment portal. Utilizing online systems and automated softwares increases medical office efficiency exponentially.
Having an embedded payment option linked with electronic statements can drastically reduce patient aged receivables as well.
Secure Payment and Information Storage
While typical businesses must protect customers’ credit card information, a medical practice must protect vital patient records. Failure to do so results in hefty legal fines and penalties. You must secure your POS software and hardware, the physical data storage, and the online information storage to remain compliant.
Hire a merchant service that offers HIPAA compliant payment options and data storage. Medically minded merchant services include special privacy contracts, additional security protocols, and specific data handling procedures.
There are many merchant services companies who only look out for themselves. They want to maximize their take-home and undercut you with hefty fees and markups.
Find a merchant service that keeps your bottom line in mind. Your savings should be the first priority. Hire a merchant services company with a reputation for fair-play and cooperative practices.
The game shouldn’t be how much can they make off you by undercutting their competition. They should price you low enough that others won’t touch the rates from the get-go. Keep an eye out for hidden fees, poor contract terms, and tiered pricing as well.
Find The Right Medical Merchant Services Company
Locating the right merchant service for your medical office can be difficult. If you’re in a partnership or association with other medical practices, ask around. See what merchant services your colleagues are using.
Often, the best way to pick a merchant services is by reviews - either word-of-mouth from fellow practitioners, or on the internet. Reviews demonstrate which companies are reliable, which are not, and which have services that work for you.
When searching for the perfect merchant services company, keep in mind that they don’t all play by the rules. Search the federal trade commission’s website for your contenders, as the FTC posts case briefings about unlawful merchant services companies.
Ultimately, find trustworthy, reliable merchant services through a company that provides the right products and services for your practice.
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