How to Take Payments at Your Healthcare Practice

Alise Bailey, Editor
Square

As a medical professional, you know that happy clients lead to a thriving and sustainable practice. But client care is not just about superior treatment. All aspects of the clinic experience add to how clients feel about your work, and whether or not they will be back.

One key piece often overlooked is the payment process. Offering a range of options improves your clinic cash flow and leads to satisfied clients. These both help lead to a profitable and well-regarded practice. For clinics that offer non-covered services such as dermatology, plastics, and paramedical services, improving customer service is essential.

Challenges of Health Practices

You know you have competition. If you practice in a major Canadian city, you may have dozens of colleagues offering the same services nearby. That means you are sharing the same pool of potential clients, who can opt for another service provider for almost any reason.

If you are lucky, you are busy: According to a 2016 survey , more than half of Canadian chiropractors see 50 to 150 patients in a week. Those patients are not only the main revenue driver, they’re also an important marketing tool. According to the same survey, more than three-quarters of practices relied on referrals or word-of-mouth to promote their businesses.

That referral can be withheld for a variety of reasons: not enough parking, trouble making an appointment, waiting in line to pay after a treatment. As more paramedical professionals enter the industry, and clients are turning to private medical services in greater numbers, those customers are more likely to share their views online and elsewhere. For professionals wanting to stay profitable, the little details truly do matter.

Of course, this is all on top of the many challenges of running a successful practice. You may have graduated with excellent clinical skills, but had little to no exposure to the financial side of the industry. That is why some professionals, like dentists, are exploring a wide array of new business models to stay ahead.

Ways to Gain Competitive Advantage

Thankfully, you do not have to rethink your business model entirely. You can improve the clinic experience by making small changes to your process. Every interaction with a client can make or break your reputation in the long run, and it’s on the basis of that reputation that you will have a long career in the industry.

To determine how to create an extraordinary experience, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. That will give you a new kind of empathy: not just with their health, but how they view your practice. Visualize all the steps your clients must take, starting with when they make an appointment. Recognize any time-wasters or additional hassles that contribute to a frustrating experience.

Keeping on top of what is going on at the front lines of your clinic is essential, but it is also about the service you provide. Your clients want their treatment to be streamlined and efficient. They may have scheduled a session over a lunch hour, or during the brief break they get between work and home. They don’t want time taken up by waiting at reception to settle the bill; they want the most minutes possible in the treatment room.

Once you have identified gaps in your patient experience, it may be easier than you think to improve. You can use an appointment app to help clients book a treatment time. This also makes your life easier through real-time, digital confirmation so you always know when you have to see your next client.

New Payment Options for Efficiency

The core of your practice administration is payment. If you have the flexibility to determine how and where patients pay for services, you can improve their overall experience. This is possible with technical tools offered by businesses like Square, which make it easy to streamline every kind of medical practice payment.

Your typical client may have a busy schedule and won’t want to schedule an extra long appointment just to fill out intake forms. With the Square and IntakeQ integration, you can create custom forms your new client can complete on her own time, even if that’s during the five minutes she gets before leaving for work in the morning.

Upon arrival, she can have a minimal wait time, especially if she has already booked through the appointment app. She spends her time mostly with the practitioner, leading to a favorable overall impression. No wasted moments in the waiting room, puzzling through complicated forms.

Then there’s payment. To easily process payments at your front desk before or after an appointment, opt for sleek hardware that complements your office, like Square Terminal, or Square Stand with Square Reader for contactless and chip. You can also swipe cards on your office computer using Square Virtual Terminal and Reader for magstripe.

If you want a mobile option to take payments into an exam room or office for privacy or ease (pediatricians, looking at you), you may opt to go for a mobile payment solution. You’ll be able to bring the payments right to a patient by taking payments on Square Terminal or on an iPad or iPhone using Square Reader for contactless and chip or with a Square Reader for magstripe (with Lightning connector).

Not only does this mean your client can simply exit the exam room with no extra step, it also provides an element of privacy. A discussion at reception usually means talking about some sensitive details, like how much their treatment costs. For dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and other treatment providers, these conversations are often quite personal and private.

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Keeping this information confidential benefits everyone. In addition to protecting sensitive medical information and upholding patient dignity, it gives you the option, for example, to create a payment plan with a client. That’s the kind of conversation you want to have out of earshot of other people milling about the waiting room.

In some cases, it might be appropriate to collect payment after a patient has visited your practice. Here are two ways to do this effectively:

  • Use an online invoicing system that lets you create, customise, send and track invoices from one simple dashboard (ideally, for free).
  • Use Square Virtual Terminal, turn your computer into an in-person terminal. Take in-person card payments by adding Square Reader for magstripe to your Apple computer or Chromebook or simply call your patients and key-in their card details.

Safeguarding Privacy and Streamlining Accounting

You may not be the only practitioner working out of your clinic. Implementing new payment options increases efficiency for everyone wanting to build their business out of your space. Square works with your current accounting programs, so you can continue to accurately record revenue and expenses for each service provider.

As with all aspects of health service, patient privacy is extremely important. Square makes it simple to link to your clinic’s systems from anywhere, but without compromising information security. For people increasingly worried about where their data goes and who has access, that’s particularly reassuring.

Square offers PCI-compliant systems and fraud detection, so you can have an additional feeling of safety when dealing with your clients’ most important information. That kind of safety is also what your clients expect when dealing with remote systems.

Make It Easy, Keep Clients Happy

Health care payment systems need not be complicated. Square brings your accounting fully into the digital age, where it is as easy to serve your clients as it is to purchase a coffee from your phone.

You’re not buying beverages, but your client probably did before they booked their appointment. The analogy is apt: clients want their sessions to be positive, hassle-free experiences. Medical professionals want to support and enhance those experiences, so clients will keep coming back. Consistency of health care is not only beneficial for the practice’s bottom line, but it vastly improves patient outcomes.

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Alise is an editor at Square, where she writes about how to start, run, and grow a business, highlighting our sellers around the world.