Taking Credit Card Numbers

October 1, 2007

I would appreciate any help or information you could offer me on keeping patients’ credit card numbers on file so I can charge them what they owe after insurance has paid its share. I want to eliminate statement billing by securing a credit card when they visit. I believe this is commonly done, but I am new to the idea.

Question: I would appreciate any help or information you could offer me on keeping patients’ credit card numbers on file so I can charge them what they owe after insurance has paid its share. I want to eliminate statement billing by securing a credit card when they visit. I believe this is commonly done, but I am new to the idea.

Answer: Some offices do take credit card numbers for this purpose, but others hate the idea.

There are three main problems:

  • Patients don’t like to have their credit card numbers floating around, and justifiably so given the amount of fraud.

  • You take a security risk. If a staffer or someone else made unwarranted use of those numbers, you’d be in a heap of trouble, and the temptation is strong for some.

  • If you don’t invoice the patient, they may not realize what they owe versus what their insurance paid. So when your item shows up on their credit card bill, you’ll be getting calls with lots of questions.

Instead, look into what your payers are doing in terms of “real-time adjudication.” You go online to a payer site, look up the patient, type in what you did, discover what the insurer will pay, and then collect the patient portion at check-out. Many payers are working toward this; some already have it online.