Contactless payments surge amid COVID-19 — What this could mean for hospitals

The use of contactless payments, which link a bank account or credit card to a phone that can be tapped on a digital reader to trigger a payment, is skyrocketing as people try to avoid person-to-person contact amid COVID-19, according to Bloomberg.

Customers are using mobile payment apps like Amazon Prime Now, Walmart Pay and Venmo to send money electronically. Richard Crone, CEO of mobile payment research firm Crone Consulting, told Bloomberg that he anticipates contactless payment will represent an additional 10-20 percent of transactions at stores because of the pandemic. A survey of 361 companies released in April by the Strawhecker Group and the Electronic Transactions Association found 27 percent of small U.S. businesses have seen more customers using contactless payment like Apple Pay.

What does this mean for hospitals? In 2015, payment service provider InstaMed added support for Apple Pay to its platform so partner hospitals could receive payment through the contactless app. Still, contactless payments have struggled to catch on in U.S. stores in general, and the same can be said about hospitals. 

However, the pandemic has some hospitals trying out new methods to limit contact in payment exchanges, such as going cashless. Houston-based Texas Children's Hospital, for example, went cashless for copays and deductibles when the pandemic began. 

The move was "one more way we could minimize the number of patient-staff interactions touching a physical document," Richelle Fleischer, president of Texas Children's Physicians Group and senior vice president of Texas Children's Hospital revenue cycle services, told Becker's during an interview separate from this article on the hospital's telehealth billing changes.

The change wasn't completely contactless, with credit cards being used for payments. Still, it represented a big change for an organization that is used to collecting copays for between 5,000 and 6,000 patients a day before stricter bans on elective services were implemented.

More articles on healthcare finance:
Hospital CEOs blast distributing stimulus funds based on Medicare revenue
Mayo Clinic projects $900M shortfall, implements cost-cutting measures
State-by-state breakdown of federal aid per COVID-19 case

 

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