Choosing the right patient payment methods for your practice

Choosing the right patient payment methods for your practice

Consumer trends point to a marked shift in how patients want to pay for services. Worldwide, consumers are opting in favour of digital and omnichannel providers. The digitisation of daily life means that mobile phones and devices are fast becoming the preferred method of payment.  In other words, app-based technology that creates a quick, easy and seamless way to pay via mobile device. Is your practice set up for success?

Keeping up with your patients’ payment preferences can drastically improve the likelihood of getting paid on time. It’s natural then that many of us would think of offering a range of payment methods in order to meet the needs of as many patients as possible, but each method has different advantages and disadvantages. And no one type of payment method is best. We reviewed payment trends of over 3 000 medical practices to get an idea of patients’ preferred payment methods.

Patient payment types

The data reveals that the popularity of cash has more than halved since 2017 in favour of electronic payments which has almost doubled.

Why the patient payment type cash, is no longer king

While cash has the benefits of immediacy and autonomy, it comes with risks – both to your patients and your practice. The sometimes ‘hidden’ costs of using cash (drawing from ATMs and bank tellers, and the cost of depositing cash) is one reason why using cash to make payments is on the decline. Added to that, the risk of theft and the associated dangers of keeping large amounts of cash on the premises is another reason why practices and patients alike prefer to opt for digital payment methods.

What the data also confirms is the consumer trend to move to a cashless society in favour of digital and omnichannel payment methods. The everyday use of smartphones mean that banking apps and eWallet solutions make on-the-go electronic payments quick, easy and convenient – replacing conventional ways to pay for goods and services.

With that in mind, patient populations are different and you need to do what is right for your patients and ultimately, what will benefit your practice. We’ve put together a pros and cons list of some of the most popular payment methods available today, so you can make an informed decision.

Card (credit/debit)

By accepting card payments, your patients can pay their bill before leaving the practice. You are assured of payment because transactions are only successful if there are funds available in the patient’s bank accounts.

Pros

  • Popular with patients, many of whom have cards
  • Payment is immediate and goes directly into your account

Cons

  • Card machines can go offline
  • You are charged fees for use of the machine and per transaction

Cash

Cash payments are typically simple and straightforward but trends show that the majority of patients prefer cashless payment methods. That said there are still patients who want to pay by cash.  

Pros

  • You don’t need to rely on technology or have any digital infrastructure in place
  • There are no transaction fees

Cons

  • It’s easy to make mistakes, and you will need to keep cash on the premises – putting you at risk of theft
  • Frequent trips to the bank are necessary to bank the money; this takes time and incurs (expensive) deposit fees

Mobile

App-based methods of payment like Snapscan fall under EFTPOS or electronic funds transfer at the point of sale. Patients can pay directly into your bank account via a mobile app that is linked to a bankcard, credit card or debit card. Card- and cashless payments are growing in popularity for a number of reasons: in part due to the safety risk associated with carrying cash or the risk of fraud when using cards. The other main reason Snapscan and other apps are being used more readily is due to our growing reliance on our mobile phones to manage our lives (and finances).

Pros

  • These easy-to-use mobile payment applications have enabled even small practices to accept card payments from virtually anywhere for less cost than traditional card payment technology
  • It’s fast and quickly growing to dominate preferred payment methods among consumers
  • Low risk, as the transaction can only go through if there are funds in the patient’s account
  • Relatively straightforward and cost-effective to set-up

Cons

  • As with all digital payment methods, you need to have the right infrastructure in place. In this case, you must have NFC (near field communication) equipment and a reliable internet connection
  • There’s no standardisation, so you will have to weigh up which “mobile wallet” is right for you

Using methods like Snapscan in conjunction with practice management software such as myMPS, gives your practice a distinct advantage when it comes to financial management. myMPS is a digital platform that automates tasks such as patient benefit checks and reconciliations. This makes a notable difference in making sure you collect the right amount from patients at the time of service.

EFT (electronic funds transfer)

Mobile banking apps have made it possible for a patient to make payment directly from their bank account into yours on-the-go. However, most consumers prefer more seamless methods that are faster and don’t require them to manually log in, add beneficiaries and verify information before making a payment.

Pros

  • Payments will only be completed if the patient has available funds in their accounts
  • There are a number of steps in place by the banking app to ensure payments are checked and bank accounts are verified

Cons

  • There’s a higher risk of patients wanting to leave the practice before making payment
  • There is often a 24 – 72 hour delay between when the patient makes payment and the cash reflects in your bank account
  • Reconciling payments can be time consuming and prone to error

Bitcoin and other digital currencies 

Digital currencies are similar to money and steadily growing in popularity with consumers (and merchants). Because it isn’t a legal tender, businesses don’t have to accept digital currency as payment but we have seen some medical practices embrace this new wave.

Pros

  • It’s independent of any banking system, you save on transaction fees  
  • It’s fast and final – you can’t spend more than you have and you can’t reverse payments added to the blockchain

Cons

  • Digital currencies are unregulated and the market is notoriously volatile
  • There is an inherent risk of fraud associated with all, but particularly less well-known, digital currencies    

Conclusion

The primary considerations when choosing payment methods for your practice include: weighing up the risks of each option, the reliance on digital and telecommunications infrastructure, privacy, service fees and the cost of transactions.

Ideally, you want to choose payment methods that strike a balance between patient preferences and what is best for your practice. The adoption of digital and omnichannel ways to pay shows no sign of slowing down and choosing them can go a long way in reducing your overall risk of bad debt.

For more information about our special SnapScan deal, contact us at queries@healthbridge.za.

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