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Consumers facing increasing out-of-pocket healthcare costs are interested in using their payment cards to pay for healthcare services. But many don’t know if their physicians and dentists accept plastic for payment.
A recent Consumer Healthcare Study conducted by Visa U.S.A. reported that one third of respondents said they would use or would be likely to use a credit card when paying for healthcare services. Approximately 72 percent of respondents view using credit cards for healthcare services as a convenience. And nearly two-thirds named Visa as the credit card they would be most inclined to use.

But 54 percent of physicians’ patients and 48 percent of dentists’ patients aren’t sure whether or not their own healthcare providers accept credit cards. Patients haven’t gotten the word that acceptance of credit cards is growing within healthcare providers’ offices. Today, 95 percent of hospitals, 80 percent of dentists and 51 percent of physicians in more than 220,000 healthcare locations in the U.S. now accept Visa cards for patient payment. Visa transactions in the healthcare industry in 1995 reached $6.6 billion, a 34 percent increase over 1994. The average transaction amount was $160.

Patients’ lack of awareness about whether or not their healthcare providers accept credit cards presents an outstanding practice-building opportunity for providers to collect out-of-pocket fees more effectively from “likely” credit card users (37 percent). The number of payments by credit card increases when healthcare providers actively promote their acceptance of Visa payment cards.

Increased credit card usage means that healthcare providers can reduce administrative paperwork, improve cash flow and assure the practice of prompt payment. Collection ratios can catapult to 100 percent because payment card authorization is equivalent to guaranteed payment. With electronic processing, reimbursement usually can be paid to the medical practice within a few days. The more a provider becomes efficient, the lower healthcare costs become.

Proliferation of managed healthcare plans, and the tightening of employer and insurance company reimbursements for healthcare have required consumers to shoulder a greater responsibility for their healthcare over the last decade. A third of respondents (29 percent) to the Visa Study indicated that their out-of-pocket healthcare costs have increased over the past year. This is despite the fact that 89 percent of respondents have healthcare insurance. More than half (57 percent) of those surveyed expect their total out-of-pocket healthcare expenses to increase over the next two to three years. One in 10 (12 percent) has delayed healthcare services because he/she is not covered by insurance.

With changes in the healthcare industry and rising costs, major payment cards such as Visa have become valuable partners in helping providers improve their receivables and substantially lower their billing and administrative costs, while offering their patients a variety of card payment options to pay for their healthcare services.

One way to increase awareness among patients that a practice accepts the Visa card is to use the free tools offered by Visa such as the Visa Practice Management Kit. This kit contains detailed explanations of innovative techniques to expand card usage for patient balances. One Study Reveals Growth Opportunities for Healthcare Providers such technique is the Patient Easy Pay Consent form which is signed by the patient at the time of service and authorizes the healthcare provider to charge the patient’s Visa card account up to a maximum amount specified by the patient, such as their insurance deductible or out-of-pocket limit.

Visa also provides training videos, brochures and an interactive diskette at no cost to practices. These materials clearly illustrate how to encourage card usage in the office and provide tips on discussing card payment methods with patients. Practices can also order Visa signage and patient educational materials to further create awareness that they accept Visa cards for payment of healthcare services.

Headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, Visa is the world’s largest consumer payment system. It plays a pivotal role in developing and implementing new technologies that benefit its 19,000 member financial institutions and their cardholders, businesses, governments and the global economy. Visa’s 464 million cards are accepted by more than 12 million merchants worldwide. The Visa/PLUS network consists of more than 277,000 ATMs in 100 countries. Visa’s Internet address is

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