11 Considerations for Choosing a Participant Payment System

Ashley Toy
April 26th, 2019

If you’re in the market for a new participant payment system, congratulations! You’re already well on your way to modernizing your stipend and reimbursement payments. Before you arrive at your destination, there are some factors that you should take into consideration to be more prepared and able to make an informed decision and smooth implementation.

1. Effort to get up and running

Adopting a new system involves training staff and adding protocols to the system, among other milestones. Defining onboarding timelines and outlining an implementation plan requires thinking though the logistics and implications for your site.

  • Will you add one protocol at a time or all of them at once?
  • Will you only add new protocols or transfer over protocols that are already in progress?
  • Are there internal processes you have to go through that could impact timelines?

Keeping these things in mind ahead of time will help make the transition seamless. If the system has an intuitive design and is easy to use, there will not be an extensive learning curve and your staff will be comfortable using it in no time.

2. IRB approvals

Talking to your IRB(s) early on in the process will help get everything approved in time for you to start using the system.

  • Are there participant-facing materials such as a portal?
  • Have you outlined the types of payments you’ll make to research volunteers on the informed consent form?

Getting these approvals early on will help prevent holdups during implementation.

3. Workflows for site staff

An electronic system should reduce the time it takes to process reimbursements, streamline workflows and automate payments. Consider the workflows for both study coordinators and financial departments.

  • Do the workflows in the system cut down on the number of steps it takes to make payments?
  • Will it make their lives easier?

When evaluating systems, be sure to involve the end users so the system will meet the needs of those who will be using it.

4. Checks and balances

It’s hard to stay organized and on top every detail across protocols, but is crucial when it comes to making and reviewing payments.

  • What’s in place to ensure you’re paying the correct amount?
  • Is it easy to track every payment?
  • Does it meet your financial and tax reporting needs?

A participant payment system should allow you to build in protocol-specific visit stipend amounts and reimbursement allowances ahead of time, so coordinators can hit the ‘Pay’ button at visit completion. Then, a review queue should allow financial teams to approve, modify or reject reimbursements to stay organized and in control.

5. Types of payments

Offering multiple forms of payment is a participant-centric practice.

  • When looking at solutions, what payment methods can you offer research volunteers?
  • Does the participant get to choose their preferred payment type?
  • For reloadable debit cards, do you have the ability to order custom branded cards?

If you want branded cards instead of the standard vendor cards, be sure to take into account the additional time that is required to create them.

6. Impact on the participant

One of the greatest benefits of a participant payment system is accelerating payments. In addition to timely fund transfers, a participant-centric solution should provide research volunteers an easy way to manage and track their balances.

  • Are you able to pay stipends to participants at visit completion or will they have to wait longer to receive their money?
  • Does the solution include a web portal or mobile app for research volunteers to view funds and manage notification preferences?
  • Can participants receive notifications when the funds transfer has occurred?

Just as site staff should have visibility into payments, so should the participants.

[Related webinar: Best Practices for Participant-Centric Payments in Clinical Trials]

7. Security

For solutions that involve both PHI and financial transactions, security is of great importance. Security is not only about having compliance controls and network security that protect against cyber threats and privacy breaches, but also reducing the likelihood of financial mishaps at your site.

  • Are there options for limiting the exposure of PHI? For certain roles, a system should have the ability to hide participant identifiers when appropriate.
  • Is there an audit trail? Having something that shows who submitted each payment and any users who made edits or status changes – all with time stamps – can help answer questions.
  • For options like direct deposit, will your site have to collect each participant’s bank account information, or is that something the participant enters on his or her own using a secure personal login?
  • What happens if a participant loses their card?

Having backups for these scenarios will protect both your site and participants.

8. Study locations

Global trials may require additional research on local regulations and best practices.

  • If you are conducting global studies, which currencies and countries does the vendor support?
  • Are language support and extended hours of operations included?

9. Total cost

An electronic payment system can positively impact a company’s bottom line. Some vendors require a minimum balance to keep your account funded or have other hidden costs that may take you by surprise.

  • Outside of the expected impact on cash flow based on the pricing model, are there additional charges that you may encounter?
  • Is there a licensing fee? A start-up fee? A per-user fee?

If you know of such fees ahead of time, take them into account to calculate the total cost of the system.

10. Prioritization of new features

Look for a collaborative company that listens to you and takes your needs into consideration.

  • Will feedback from you and other customers be included in product updates?
  • Will there be a conversation between you and the vendor or one-way communication?

11. Integrations with other technologies

An electronic payment system alone increases efficiencies, but one that practically integrates with other complementary technologies will reduce even more redundancies. When a payment system is effectively integrated with other types of clinical research software, such as a clinical trial management system (CTMS), your site can become even more efficient.

  • Is the provider willing to partner and integrate with other clinical trial technologies?

Whether you’re moving from check processing or looking for a new technology to use, there are many considerations to take into account when evaluating participant payment systems. Thinking these elements through may help you better plan for your implementation and prevent you from running into delays and foreseeable obstacles. Be sure to check out Forte Participant Payments as part of your search for a new system.