If you’ve never used online billing for behavioral health practices before, you probably have a lot of questions about how the process works and whether it’s right for your practice. You’ll also need to know how to set up online bill pay should you choose to use it.
First, let’s define it. Within the behavioral health industry, the phrase “online bill pay” means that your clients can view and pay their bill via credit, debit, HSA, or other types of cards. In order to offer this service, you need to have integrated credit card processing set up through your EHR system.
Online bill pay has several advantages over other payment methods. It’s convenient for clients to access and pay their bill at any time without having to manage paper bills, write checks, or drop something in the mail. Greater convenience equals a greater chance that you get paid on time.
Clients may prefer making credit card payments through the portal because of the security of online bill pay. A good EHR credit card integration system will offer strong encryption to keep your clients’ financial information secure. Patient portals are less vulnerable to cyber attacks and fraud than publicly-hosted pages. And no one at your practice needs to handle client cards or view their information.
Other Types of Online Bill Pay Systems
For context, here are several other popular methods for handling online bill pay. You’ll see that for behavioral health practices, integrated credit card processing and patient portal bill pay are usually the best choice.
Hosted payment page
This refers to a payment page that is hosted by a third party merchant services provider. When a consumer chooses online bill pay, they’re rerouted to a payment screen that is hosted by your third-party provider. Navigating away from the site makes some consumers nervous and causes them to select a different method of payment; in the retail world, this is often a driving factor behind abandoned shopping carts. Some organizations try to mitigate this problem by making the redirect as unobtrusive and possible and building a payment page that has the same look and feel as the rest of their web site, but you always run the risk that a certain percentage of your clients will notice.
Keep in mind that the hosted payment page is in the control of the third-party merchant. This may limit customization capabilities, and will make it harder to test how client behavior is affected by tweaks to the page.
An API, or Application Program Interface, is a programming feature that helps integrate your payment system to other existing programs at your practice, such as your EHR or billing software. This gives you better insight into customer behavior, since you can view the entire payment transaction from start to finish.
To achieve this, you’ll need both a developer and a graphic designer dedicated to connecting the third-party payment system to your existing site in a streamlined way.
An ACH solution moves money directly from one account to another via account numbers and other banking information. One party authorizes the transfer of funds directly into the other party’s bank account. This is the idea behind direct deposit paychecks and some ongoing subscription features. ACH solutions are secure, as payments have to pass the scrutiny of a clearinghouse before authorization, although fraudsters are getting better at skirting these security features.
For the security and convenience, you’ll likely pay a fee on each transaction, as well as setup costs. Money transfers can take several days to be approved, so the full amount may not be available to you right away when a payment is authorized. For this reason, it isn’t the best solution for everyone.
Guide to Setting Up Online Bill Pay for Your Behavioral Health Practice
If you want to reap the benefits of online bill pay at your practice, here are the steps to get you from consideration to action to success.
Look into which payment system would work best for you. This will depend on a few things, including the size of your practice and how many payments you take per month. Your comfort level with involving a third party into your payments is another factor that will help determine what system you should pursue.
2. Work with your EHR.
Find out which types of bill pay solutions your EHR company recommends and supports. Certain types of payments may work well with your EHR, while others may be incompatible.
3. Review the security of your chosen method.
Your online bill pay must meet rigorous security standards so that you can guarantee the safety of your clients’ information. Any payment method that accepts cards must be PCI compliant and should not in any way compromise the HIPAA compliance of your overall software.
4. Seek references.
Ask around at other practices that have used your chosen online payment solution. Find out what they like and don’t like about it, and what they wish they’d known going in. If you plan to work with a third party, gather a few client reviews on that third party’s performance and what the working relationship is like. If you plan to integrate credit card processing right into your EHR, talk to other practitioners who have used this feature at your EHR and get their take on its success.
5. Initiate the process with your EHR and/or third party payment vendor.
If you choose integrated credit card processing, your EHR tech support team will help you get set up accepting payments through your patient portal. If you choose a third party, they’ll guide you through details such as setting up your new payment page and making sure it’s easy for users to find.
6. Build and test your payment solution.
This stage includes working with a third party merchant service to design a payment page that fits with the look and feel of your web site. Once built, the page should be rigorously tested for errors. If you choose integrated credit card processing, you EHR tech support team will you help you through testing process.
7. Establish who will troubleshoot.
When an online payment portal experiences technical difficulties, you want it fixed as fast as possible. Before the page goes live, you should identify who you can call for help with problems, and which employee(s) at your practice will be tasked with that communication. By the same token, if a client calls your staff with a payments page question, which staff member will field the call, and what will you tell clients if you don’t have the answer right away? You want to make these decisions before something goes wrong, not after.
8. Launch, and build awareness.
You’ll want to send messages about your new payment method via the patient portal, email, or text, and you’ll likely want to post the information at your physical office space. Have an FAQ sheet to help walk clients through the online payment process, and make it readily available on the patient portal.
We’ll Handle It For You
Setting up online bill pay doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Let the experts at Valant handle it.
Valant software includes a credit card processing integration option that allows you to conveniently charge patients and accept payment online through the patient portal. Our team will walk you through every step so you can offer top-tier payment options for a modern clientele.
Contact us today for a free demo.