A card payment system is so deeply rooted in our daily life that we take many aspects of it for granted, like its accessibility, availability, and safety. The medical sphere is no different, and it’s a rare case when we pay for healthcare services with cash or checks, especially for those services we’ve received online.
Credit card processing for healthcare services differs somewhat from other card processing services because of the legal side of it. Most of the popular billing services like PayPal or Vimeo can’t be used for medical billing because their technologies don’t operate within the scope of HIPAA requirements.
There are many nuances that healthcare providers should pay attention to. Oftentimes, these aspects are left out by the mainstream payment systems. For instance, the payment system used in the medical field should not provide any patient’s health information on the bills or receipts, the processor should be PCI DSS compliant, the data shouldn’t be stored electronically or otherwise, etc.
Many of the aforementioned legal requirements are stated in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Adopted in 1996, HIPAA serves as a set of guidelines for securing patient data. In this article, we’ll review the importance of HIPAA compliance for the involved entities, discuss how to arrange it if you’re in the telemedicine business or support it, and how the Empeek team can assist your business with secure card payment solutions.
Secure Payment Processing Solutions for Telehealth Business
Shortly put, HIPAA obliges the medical providers, business associates, insurances, and developers to conduct their activity regarding the patient’s information without exposing it to risks associated with sharing, transferring, storing, or using the patient’s information. In this article, we will focus on HIPAA compliance regarding healthcare credit card processing.
For the medical industry, HIPAA compliance is the most important criteria for being deemed as a lawful provider since HIPAA violations can entail penalties, license loss, or even criminal charges.
Therefore, if you run a medical office, provide telemedicine services, help the provider institution with maintenance/service, store or process the personal patient’s information, you should be compliant with the HIPAA requirements concerning the online payment processing for telemedicine services. Here’s what the situation is as of now.
Telehealth Industry Overview: Current State and Stats
Even though the telehealth industry is more than 40 years old, it’s because of the COVID-19 pandemic that it became extremely popular. The CARES Act adopted in March 2020 has enforced the insurance companies to include 85 telehealth services as their covered services – and they don’t include solely the services associated with the pandemic.
On top of that, it’s only a start for the industry, as it’s expected to grow from $61.40 bn in 2019 to $559.52 bn in 2027 with more than half of it to be dedicated to service provision. The reason? Telehealth allows health care providers to increase continuity of care, extend access beyond normal clinic hours, reduce patient travel burden, and help overcome clinician shortages, particularly in rural areas.
Naturally, the need for making secure credit card processing solutions for telemedicine business will grow as well. Consequently, healthcare institutions will be facing even tougher restrictions and regulations concerning financial data safety. Therefore, if you’re a telehealth business, this is what you should know about the implementation of the payment system.
The Bigger Scope, the Bigger Risk
The rapid development of telehealth services means, among other things, a bigger volume of data to process. As a result, there are also more attempts to steal sensitive information. The HIPAA Act is designed with consideration to this to protect the patient’s right to have their information intact as well as regulate the provider’s activity regarding the patient’s data they receive, use, or store.
While the credit card processing does not fall within the scope of HIPAA since no health record information is being stored, the provider should be careful with choosing healthcare credit card processing that won’t use the merchant account to store, process, or receive the protected health information (PHI).
The PHI includes the legal name of the patient, their DoB, credit card number, any information from the medical record or insurance, etc. If the merchant/payment system uses any of it in their billing, they violate the HIPAA terms which will entail legal consequences. Let’s review how one can implement HIPAA compliant credit card processing without risking a thing.
To learn more about how to develop a HIPAA compliant telehealth platform, read our article dedicated to compliance requirements for telehealth.
HIPAA and Credit Card Processing: A Subtle Bond
It is important to understand the card processing mechanisms and the involved parties to choose the right processing company for your healthcare business. Let’s start with the involved parties.
Who Partakes in Credit Card Processing
Credit card processing is the transaction initiated by the credit card holder, forwarded by the provider’s POS, and processed by the provider’s payment processor. The processor sends the transaction request to the credit card network and the network forwards it to the card issuer to approve or decline the transaction.
The key stakeholders i credit card processing process are the following:
- Cardholder: in this case – the patient who wants to pay for provided services with the card.
- Card issuer: a bank or credit union that’s authorized the card-issuing to the particular person.
- Healthcare provider/merchant: an establishment that provides medical services.
- Card network and brands: the companies that allow the financial transactions between the cardholders and merchants to occur.
To prevent the credit card information from being intercepted or hacked during the transactions, a merchant should select a processor that adheres to Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).
What Are the Most Common Credit Card Processing Types in Telemedicine
Because the telehealth services are provided online, so are processed the payments. It involves the exchange of the information necessary to initiate, process, and finalize the payment request. So how is it done these days?
Some providers choose to take payment by phone. In this case, the client is sent a request for specific information to finalize the payment. While mobile payments keep gaining vast popularity, this type of credit card processing has 2 issues. Let’s review them below.
Firstly, many issuers do not allow “card-not-present” payments and require creating a charge record and verify the cardholder’s name and billing address. Secondly, the providers cannot store or write down the obtained information anywhere else except for the payment system. Therefore, this method might be not the safest or the most convenient.
Integrated Telemedicine Software
This option becomes more and more popular because of the opportunity for instant payment. The system provides a pop-up window with the payment form. Once the form is filled up with the required financial data, the request gets processed.
Usually, the payment portal is PCI DSS compliant, which means the merchants only need to integrate it into your system to set up the process and secure online transactions. However, the drawback of this option is having to sign up with a specific payment provider while making a payment.
This type includes a secure telemedicine payment processing gateway. The biggest advantage of this type is that you can customize the form, send it before or after the appointment, and include various payment providers. Here, the clients themselves type in the necessary information and the process gets finalized for a provider after the patient confirms the transaction.
Direct payment solutions are the safest and the most convenient for healthcare providers as, if set up and managed right, they can be fully HIPAA-compliant. How? Because the developers can come up with the solution that will service your clients only and involve the technologies that ensure the HIPAA security requisites.
When choosing the credit card processing type, medical services providers should be careful that it won’t cause a situation when the HIPAA requirements will be violated. The next part will give some pointers to keep in mind when implementing HIPAA compliant payment processing into your business.
Implementing HIPAA Compliant Credit Card Processing: Dos and Don’ts
The payment process involves a few stages after a service has been provided such as generating an invoice/bill, sharing it with the payer, and getting the transaction done. Since creating an invoice cannot be done without stating the personal health information on it, every step of the way falls under the HIPAA rule.
While there are many payment systems that other merchants can use for their services, they can’t be used when it comes to medical practice. This applies to the systems like PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, QuickBooks, and Wave, which aren’t HIPAA compliant. Therefore, the option of using them for healthcare billing is off the table. What are the potential solutions or best case practices in this case? Let’s further review them.
- provide any protected health information including details about treatment or care in the billing;
- send receipts via text or unsecured email, and make sure your processing company don’t do so either;
- sign up with a payment processing company before checking if they are HIPAA compliant. Never collaborate with the companies that left it unanswered;
- use by phone payment if you have an option of not doing so.
- create an official inquiry on whether a payment gateway provider offers HIPAA compliant medical payment processing;
- secure the credit card data by investing in an encrypted vault to make sure the sensitive card data isn’t saved electronically for open use;
- sign a business associate agreement with the company that process payments, especially if they not only deal with the payments but also assist you with marketing or data collection;
- use payment data security encryption technology (P2P, vP2PE);
- consider an in-house payment integration solution, especially if you have a practice management network already.
A HIPAA-compliant payment solution does involve a lot of resources and following many legal guidelines to do it right. The above-mentioned points are here to give a general idea of what direction to follow and what to avoid. But because every healthcare provider is different, we recommend reaching out to our team and asking what can be done so your telehealth patients are sure in the safety of their data when they pay for the services.
Creating a safe credit card payment is in the best interest of the healthcare provider that wants to deliver telehealth services effectively, secure its position on the healthcare market, and create a convenient and safe payment option for its clients.
If you require to set up the billing process for your telehealth business, Empeek is ready to design a HIPAA-compliant payment software solution for your business and help you to focus more on care provision rather than payment collection. After all, this is what healthcare should be about. Contact us today and let’s talk about your project in detail.