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Smarter Payments

Its end has been long predicted but we may now be seeing the final death throes for the cheque as a means of payment. It’s not going to go quietly, after all the first cheque was recorded in 1659 and by 1717 the Bank of England pioneered pre-printed check forms, but it seems as though the inevitable is happening and the cheque is giving way to the march of technology.

In fact, it may not just be the cheque which is on its way out. Cash too is under threat as contactless and card payments rise in popularity. So much so, that a report from UK cards Association comments that ‘consumer spending has undergone a revolution in the past decade.’

Highlights of the report include the fact that in the ten years to 2014 card spending has risen from £270 billion to £566 billion with supermarkets, pubs and restaurants being among the key gainers. Interestingly, 71% of card transactions are now made using debit cards, a rise on the 58% seen in 2004 and an indication of the way in which we are increasingly looking to contactless payments as an alternative to cash. Speaking about the results Richard Koch, Head of Policy at The UK Cards Association, said “Cards are accepted in more places than ever before and with innovations such as contactless cards and digital wallets, this trend is sure to continue.”

Whilst high-street stores may be leading the way, the increased acceptance of cards as a means of payment benefits businesses across the board. For example, health professionals are increasingly looking to card payments as a means of settling treatment charges. Thanks to initiatives such as digital wallets and mobile payments which are supported by the card system, even sole practitioners can collect payments from their customers by card. And by using other initiatives such as the Clinic Appointments secure card payment processing system, health professionals and their customers can take advantage of a secure payment system linked to an online booking service.

Moving to a direct card payment system brings multiple benefits for patients and healthcare professionals alike. For a start, paying by card is quick and simple for patients; moving them away from the treatment/invoice/payment cycle which can be time-consuming and lead to confusion over payments due.

For the health practice, not only are card payments quicker, they can also lead to a smoothing out cash flow. But the ability to take payments by card can also help to ensure that clients who book treatments actually turn up for them. Taking card details at the point of booking enables health practices to charge a ‘no-show’ fee in accordance with their advertised procedures. And if clients know they will be charged even if they don’t turn up, they are more likely to ensure that their appointment is kept.

In fact, card payments are such a win-win scenario that the only real surprise is that they have as yet to be universally adopted by those health professionals such as physiotherapists and chiropractors who charge directly for their services.

Secure Card Processing

Black Friday, Cyber Monday; whichever day you have earmarked as the time to break the back of your Christmas Shopping the chances are that both shops and internet will be working to capacity. In fact, as a speech by the Managing Director of the Payment Systems Regulator, Hannah Nixon, revealed recently our love of automated transactions is growing apace. And the more we use our cards the more important it is for the payments industry to ensure that secure card processing happens as a matter of course.

According to Hannah Nixon, in the UK in 2014 some 40,000 transactions are made every minute on average. With early reports that spending on the two ‘major’ Christmas shopping days so far this year was well up on 2013 it is easy to believe that transaction volumes also were far higher than average.

One of the reasons for Hannah Nixon’s speech was to highlight the way in which the PSR is working to improve payment systems in order to provide new options for consumers and to make existing options better and easier to use. Much of what she said was more directly relevant to those who provide the systems rather than end users but if the PSR vision is realised then we will have “world class payment systems operating in the best interests of service users and the wider UK economy.”

Over the last few years we have already seen a huge development taking placed in the payment card sector. Contactless payments, online payments, swift transfers between accounts; all have improved payment options for businesses and consumers alike. We now expect to be able to use our cards as a prime payment method. And with that expectation comes the acknowledgement that ease of payment for consumers and swifter receipt of funds for retailers delivers a win-win result.

Take booking health appointments for example. By allying a secure card payment processing service to online booking, health practitioners can take a pre-authorised payment at the time of booking. Once the appointment has taken place, payment can be confirmed, helping to smooth out cashflow. Another advantage of secure card processing is that it tends to reduce the number of ‘no-shows’, particularly if clients know that they will be faced with an automatic cancellation fee if they fail to turn up for their appointment. Should clients decide to pay by an alternate means then the pre-authorisation can simply be cancelled.

Secure card processing is just one way in which the health practitioner can reduce administration time whilst at the same time helping to ensure that appointment slots are filled as much as practicable. SMS text reminders also help to reduce no-shows and can be pre-scheduled to be sent out at a set time before the appointment. Health practitioners may only account for a small proportion of the billions of transactions which already take place every year but if secure card processing can help to cut workflow and smooth cashflow then the more developments in card payment options which the PSR can encourage the better.

Contact us today to discover how Clinic Appointments can help your clinic. Book your free demo call now to learn more.