In her recent webinar, Patient Collections 101: Let’s Start at the Very Beginning, speaker Mary Pat Whaley shared her best practices for improving patient collections. She provided a lot of information about the benefits of using a credit card on file program. The, she spent time answering the many questions posed by participants. Here are a few of the top questions asked during the event.
Q: What are the security requirements for using credit card on file?
A: Your payment gateway must be PCI-DSS certified. The practice should not photocopy any credit cards or write the complete card information on paper. Take credit card information by phone. If you MUST write the information down, shred the information once it has been entered into the payment gateway. Make sure each user of the payment gateway users has an individual logon and password and require users to change passwords every 90 days. Have a strong security policy for credit card information protection and train all practice staff on the importance of protecting sensitive information.
Q: We've tried credit card on file once before. Patients were resistant and angry, my docs and staff were upset. What can we do to implement this program again but with better success?
A: Credit card on file, and good patient collections in general, require a planned rollout with training of all staff. Review the slides or watch the presentation again for the steps to improve patient collections. Before rolling out a program, you need to have your policies completed, have a communication plan for the program, and have your staff well trained and prepared to answer questions. For a deeper dive into the mechanics of CCOF, you can attend a live 90-minute webinar (http://managemypractice.com/services/credit-card-on-file-ccof/) or purchase a DVD (http://bit.ly/CCOFDVD) of the webinar. Both the live and recorded webinars include 12 templates, documents and policies for the implementation of CCOF.
Q: How often do we charge the card on file?
A: For a one-time charge, like a copay or a deductible amount that is within the set limit, you would charge the card at the time that you know the charge. For an ongoing payment plan, you would charge it on a monthly basis. For many practices, it is a combination of a charge at the time of service and any balance remaining after insurance pays about 30 days after the visit.
Q: How do we get patients to sign up for credit card on file?
A: This is where having a good, clear financial policy and a well-trained staff can come in handy. Present the policy to new patients and to all patients once a year. Explain the policy and answer questions patients have. Make sure every staff person can answer questions and explain why you are implementing this policy. Also, make sure patients understand how using credit card on file can benefit them. It allows them to pay their bills with no need to go online, write a check, wait for a statement, etc., and they do not need to worry about bringing a check or credit card to their visit. It is more secure and the staff only see the credit card once when they swipe it to place the card on file, instead of at every visit. Many credit card companies, utilities, and other retailers use this practice. Patients should be familiar with how something like this works, and they should see that you are simply following best practices that are being used in many other industries. If you can’t collect the money you are owed, you won’t be able to stay open. So do whatever it takes to help patients understand this change. It is scary for practices to consider that they might lose patients, but we’ve not had any practices lose any more than three patients, and those patients were problem payers to begin with.
I tell practices “Not every patient will be right for your practice.” With the scarcity of all types of physicians looming, most patients will comply to stay with a physician and practice they like.
Q: Do patients often dispute charges with their credit card company?
A: This is not very common. If you make sure the patient has reviewed the financial policy and signed a credit card on file agreement and asked any questions, then the patient should not be surprised by charges. Also, be sure the patient knows that they can call and get a copy of charges and payments. Or point them to your patient portal if it offers the ability for patients to see their billing history. We love the email receipt capability of payment gateways. Often the patient gets the receipt while they are in the office so it is not a case of just getting their credit card statement 30 days later and not remembering. Plus, the payment gateway puts the practice name on the charge transaction, so patients are not confused about where the charge came from.