Providing care for international patients? 4 steps to patient-centric cross-border payments

Processing cross-border healthcare payments is complex. It doesn’t have to be.

Victoria Napoli
Victoria Napoli
Head of Cross-Border Healthcare, Flywire

Deciding to seek healthcare abroad is a process already fraught with emotion, and the processes around actually making a payment for that care can add significant stress.

Consider the factors in play.

  • Payment in full, based on an estimate of services, is required up front, before a patient arrives.
  • Patients can face high FX rates and unclear fees, and lack confidence they’ve paid the right amount.
  • Hospitals and healthcare systems may receive short payments and must manually reconcile payment information.
  • Hospital and healthcare system billing departments must handle around-the-clock, international, payment-related questions.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Cross-border payments can be patient-centric. Here are 4 things to consider in moving to a patient-centric cross-border payment experience.

1. Offer options in payment method and currency.

When an international patient or their family need to make a bill payment, often their only option is initiating a wire transfer in the currency the hospital wants to receive payment in. This comes with added FX and intermediary bank fees. They often have to physically get to the bank, make the transfer, and then simply wait until the money gets to the hospital. The transfer can take anywhere from 3 to 10 business days to reach its destination, all while the sender has very little insight into who holds the money at any given time, and what fees are taken out along the way. The stakes are all that much higher given that payments often need to be made in full before treatment can be scheduled.

Patient-centric cross-border payments make it easy for patients to pay online, in their payment method and currency of choice. Fees are automatically calculated at the time of payment, ensuring that payments are made in full, and providers receive and settle payment in their currency of choice.

2. Provide transparency on fund movement.

Lots of factors make it difficult for patients to understand the full cost of payment, and they change according to what payment method they pick. The FX rate a patient sees online (the mid-market rate) isn’t what they’ll actually be able to obtain currency at. The actual cost of obtaining a currency will almost always be higher than that rate because of the fees charged by the partners involved in the trade. Credit cards payments come with an FX markup and foreign transaction fees.

Patient-centric cross-border payments give patients control over the payment method they pick, and ensure they fully understand the fee structures at the time of payment, as well as provide the most competitive rate for exchanging currency. It’s easy to track payment status online, for both patients and providers.

3. Provide the highest levels of payment security by ensuring compliance.

Patient payments are often fraught with emotion. Guarantee of a secure payment process is really important. There are many parts of the cross-border payment process that unwillingly may inject risk into payment processes. For instance, accepting card payments over the phone carries risk because PCI compliance obligations are determined by all pathways to payment, and responsibility remains for protecting that information and maintaining compliance with the network security standards.

Patient-centric cross-border payments protect data privacy and minimize risk of noncompliance. For instance, PCI v.4 takes effect this year, and really places pressure on healthcare providers to secure card data. Reducing the scope of compliance by working with the right payment partner boosts security and minimizes risk. A hospital with a PCI-validated P2PE solution, which prevents card data from transmitting “in the clear” (i.e., in a plain text or unencrypted format), undergoes the simplest audit, whereas a hospital with a nonvalidated P2PE solution requires the most extensive—and costly—validation process.

4. Support patients across different languages and time zones.

Is your billing department capable of taking calls at 3:00 a.m. from across the globe? Can the call center agents help a patient in their native language? These are factors that can make it difficult for the patient to make timely and accurate payments.

Patient-centric payments localize billing and support. The right payment partner is capable of supporting patients around-the-clock and in local languages, and through their channel of choice - phone, text and email. Support processes put patients first.

Patient-centric cross-border payments can be a reality

Hospitals and healthcare systems can do more to bring peace of mind to international patients and their families when it comes to paying for their care.

In just a decade, Flywire has processed payments for international patients from 136 different countries in 90 different currencies.

Flywire partners with leading U.S. and global healthcare systems with well-established global patient services programs, which helps us identify some of the unique challenges that international patients face in the payment process.

Flywire offers international patients a variety of familiar online and offline payment options in multiple currencies. Patients can pay in their local currency, using a simple web experience that is customized by their country of residence. Competitive currency conversion rates can also offer significant savings when compared to rates offered by banks in the patients’ home countries. Funds are transferred quickly and safely, and patients can track payment status online, via email or SMS. Patients also receive around-the-clock, multilingual support via phone, chat and email.

With the right partner, you can provide a payment experience for your international patients that is safe, flexible and cost effective – a patient-centric payment experience.