Top 5 Credit Card on File Questions and Answers

Today the average practice has up to 35% of their revenue coming from patient pay but 81% of self-pay revenues go uncollected. It's no wonder that practices today are turning to credit card on file programs to solve the challenges of patient pay collections. 

Declining reimbursement is already a top challenge for practices. Taking a hit to the revenue cycle because of patient pay simply isn't an option.

For those clinics that have evolved their revenue cycle management operations to work for patients with high deductibles, an increase in patient collections is extremely common. Some practices have even been able to reduce accounts receivable days by as much as 28 percent in just six months as mentioned in a recent article published on RevCycle Intelligence.

Even with the numerous benefits that the program delivers in terms of convenience and revenue, some clinics are still hesitant to implement a credit card on file program. Here we will answer five of your most common questions surrounding credit card on file and provide advice on how your practice can get started with a CCOF program today.

1. How does a Credit Card on File Program Work?

A credit card on file program is relatively simple in terms of how it works. With a CCOF program, your front office staff would swipe the patient's credit card and store the information in a secure database (we'll discuss the security of CCOF further in the article). 

Once the patient's balance amount is known, you can recall the patient's payment information and use this for no-show fees, copays, deductibles, and other money owed to your practice. The patient would then receive a zero balance statement or a balance for the payment plan they've agreed to with your practice.

Most credit card on file programs are intergrated with some sort of online patient pay technology so you aren't just implementing a CCOF program, you're also giving patients the ability to login online and pay their bills. This is a huge move for your revenue cycle performance considering 9 out of 10 consumers want to pay their healthcare bills online and 93% of consumers would pay their healthcare bills through their provider's or health plan's website.1

Setting Up Payment Plans with a CCOF Program

Having an online payment portal and payment plans available to patients during the implementation of a credit card on file program is extremely helpful in getting patients onboard and excited about your new program/payment options. Keep in mind, payment plans are also going to help patients seek the healthcare they need sooner. If a patient is worried about being able to afford the visit to your practice they may prolong their visit and end up making their condition even worse.

They key to communicating a CCOF program is assuring patients that if their balance is more than they might expect or just high in general, you will contact them before placing that full balance on their credit card. Not doing so could quickly damage that relationship.

At the time your practice swipes the patient's credit card and stores the information, you can ask the patient what is the maximum amount they will allow you to charge to their charge without contacting them first. If the patient's balance is over $200 for example, the patient may want a phone call so that they instead have the option to pay that $200 in increments over a 3 month timeframe (those stipulations are entirely up to your practice).

This helps to eliminate sending costly, and often useless, statements to patients and makes electronic payment plan management as effortless as "set it and forget it." 


2. What is the cost of implementing a Credit Card on File Program?

The cost to implement a credit card on file program will depend on who you partner with. There are a number of vendors that offer the security and functionality required for credit card on file programs but often the start up costs along with the merchant fees can deter a practice from moving forward.

You can contact us if you are interested in learning more about GroupOne's preferred credit card on file and online payment technology vendor or request a services exploratory phone call to see how we make it easy for our RCM customers to integrate the Credit Card on File Program into their medical billing operations with no start up costs.

3. How should I communicate a Credit Card on File Program to my patients?

This is always one of the main concerns that we heard about credit card on file. Most practices are worried that implementing a CCOF program is going to give patients the wrong impression about their practice. However, not implementing a CCOF program means you are already giving them the wrong impression. Medical services are not free and for any practice to keep their doors open today, patient pay collections must be taken seriously.

Communicating a credit card on file program should start with the benefits. Here are a few points to keep in mind during the CCOF conversation:

  • Our new credit card on file program allows for faster check-in and check-out
  • With CCOF there's no need to worry about a past due balance or being sent to collections.
  • The software we use to store your credit card is completely secure and makes it easy for you to login online and manage payment plans, view any past balances, or update payment information.
  • This means you have one less bill to worry about.
  • There is not need for you to bring various payment methods to every visit since we have your card already on file.

Another part to communicating a credit card on file program to patients is letting them know that this is common practice in the healthcare industry and especially in other industries. Often times patients don't think about how common it is to give your card to a hotel clerk or the gym for automatic withdrawal. Assure them this is the same concept and that if you don't collect the money you are owed for your services, then there is simply no way to continue to keep seing patients for years to come.  

4. Is a credit card on file program legal?

A credit card on file program is legal. Since the payment information qualifies as protected health information, there are a number of security regulations to consider under HIPAA and also under the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). Partnering with a payment vendor that holds the highest PCI DSS Level 1 certification is key to protecting your patients' data. Look for a vendor that commits to ongoing PCI compliance to ensure patient payment card data is kept safe throughout every transaction.  

5. What are the security requirements for implementing a credit card on file program?

Having a strong HIPAA compliance strategy and security policy in place should already be a priority for your practice. As mentioned earlier, your payment gateway must be PCI-DSS certified and since credit card information is considered protected health information (or PHI) under HIPAA, your practice must emphasize the "reasonableness" of the security measures in place.

If you aren't sure about the security measures you have in place today, you can click here to request a HIPAA organization assessment. Otherwise, here are a few guidelines to follow to ensure that you take the highest precaution in protecting your patients' credit card information:

  • Do not write down credit card information or photocopy any credit cards
  • Make sure each user of the payment technology has an individual login and password (passwords should be complex and updated every 90 days)
  • Place a strong focus on training your staff on the importance of protecting sensitive information



While some practices are hesitant to implement a credit card on file program, those that do make the decision to start collecting credit card information from their patients tend to see instant results when it comes to patient collections.

Even though most providers do not have the program, about 20 percent, according to RevCycle Intelligence, agreed that a credit card on file was the best method for decreasing patient days in accounts receivable. Another 29 percent viewed the patient collection strategy as an effective way to reduce bad debt and write-offs. What are you waiting for?


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