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Make sure your merchant processor is Payment Card Industry compliant to protect your organization and your patients from data security breaches that could lead to credit card fraud and identity theft.

If your organization accepts credit card payments from patients at the point of service or online, you need to understand that all payment processors are not created equal. Your merchant processor can affect your hospital's profitability and, more importantly, the security of sensitive patient billin information.

While providing your patients with more ways to pay is certainly a best practice for patient-friendly organizations, your hospital might be at risk of exposing sensitive patient billing information if your merchant processor isn't compliant with industry standards-so choose wisely.

Keep an Eye on Compliance

Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance regulations were developed to prevent credit card fraud and identity theft for all organizations that accept, transmit, or store credit card information. Falling short of PCI compliance can be costly on many levels. Accepting credit card payments from patients while using a merchant processor that isn't PCI compliant could increase your risk of exposing patient payment information that could be used by criminals to commit credit card fraud or identity theft.

According to a recent survey commissioned by ACI Worldwide, Inc., an electronic payment software developer, and conducted by Research Now, 29 percent of the 4,200 individuals surveyed who have used a credit or debit card within the past five years have experienced card fraud. According to the Javelin Strategy & Research 2011 Identity Fraud Survey Report, 8.1 million adults in the United States in 2010 were victims of identity fraud where unauthorized individuals used another person's information for their own financial gain.

In addition to jeopardizing the financial safety of patients, organizations that experience breaches in data security are required by law in more than 38 states to notify affected parties.

Sometimes it is taken for granted or assumed that all companies selling merchant services are PCI compliant. However, that's a dangerous assumption; you're only as secure as the partners you work with. You must be certain your payment processor adheres to data storage and security guidelines, and that appropriate firewalls are in place.

Merchant Processor Red Flags

Along with steering clear of merchant processors that aren't PCI compliant to protect the financial security of your patients, you should also be aware of other common pitfalls associated with fly-by-night merchant processors to shield your organization as well.

Watch out for bait-and-switch rates. There's a reason they are called "teaser rates." Some merchant processors use low introductory rates to lure you in, only to hike the rates soon after the relationship is established or add fees along the way. Seek out processors that offer full disclosure of rates and provide a lower overall cost and effective rate from the start.

Beware of long-term obligations. If you are required to sign a long-term contract to initiate a working relationship, be on guard. Companies that demand lengthy agreements will likely levy heavy fees should you need to cancel before term. Some merchant processors are more flexible, working on short-term or month-to-month agreements that never lock you into situations or lead you into costly fees.

Demand clear reporting and support. As with any solid business relationship, set high standards for service. Amidst the array of potential partners to choose from, there are those that take a consultative approach, provide customizable reporting tools, and offer support. You need access to clear reports and statements online, in addition to support services, to promptly answer any issues that may arise.

Prioritize implementation. Find a merchant processor that is sensitive to the fact that your organization is already entrenched in IT solutions and systems that run your business and is willing to work with you to ensure smooth implementation and integration. The merchant processor should be with you each step of the way, integrating systems and determining the best solutions to help you collect more of what you are owed, while keeping costs low and efficiency within your hospital high.

If you'd like peace of mind knowing your merchant processor is not only PCI compliant, but also a trusted leader in the industry, Emdeon Merchant Services and Chase Paymentech are here to help. Emdeon is collaborating with Chase Paymentech, a global leader of payment processing, to simplify patient payment processing and integrate seamlessly with Emdeon solutions. Call 877.EMDEON.6 (877.363.3666) or visit us online to learn more today.


Publication Date: Friday, November 18, 2011