How Automation Improves the Process of Paying Clinical Trial Participants

Kristina Lopienski
July 19th, 2018

In a world where bills are paid online, people transfer money to friends and family via mobile apps, and most paychecks are delivered through electronic funds transfer, it’s no surprise many research organizations have moved beyond the check and discovered more modern methods to pay participants. In fact, electronic payment systems make the process very simple and offer value to all stakeholders. If you’re due for an upgrade, read on to learn how a participant payment system can improve your processes in many ways.

Pay patients immediately to drive instant gratification and greater retention

Patients often have to pay out-of-pocket expenses they otherwise wouldn’t incur to participate in a study. Depending on how long it takes to reimburse participants, delays caused by manual processes may actually cause them to go further into debt. Thus, the timing of payments may be just as important to sustaining their participation as the money itself.

Payment systems allow coordinators to click ‘Pay’ as soon as a visit is completed and release pre-set stipend amounts without having to wait for accounting to review them later. Similarly, finance can dramatically accelerate reimbursements, getting money into the participant’s hands much sooner and improving satisfaction. Participants no longer have to wait weeks for a check to come in the mail and can be paid in a much timelier manner.

Reduce administrative burden to save time and streamline communication

Coordinators often have to run back and forth to submit requests for any payment for a given visit for each patient across protocols. Then, before processing payment, finance has to review receipts and compare the request to the maximums allowed in the contract. This takes a lot of time. Instead, a system can free up a study coordinator’s workload by eliminating most of these steps and instantly loading funds onto the patient’s payment method.

With an electronic system, finance no longer has to review expected payments, like stipends, because pre-set amounts can be added ahead of time, requiring no further approvals or reconciliation. Payments needing approval, such as travel reimbursements, auto-populate in a review queue for finance, along with associated receipts. This is done in real-time, allowing finance to stay updated on when participants are at the site for study visits. Built-in reports also help track payment amounts across subjects and protocols while meeting financial and tax reporting needs. This gives more visibility and control over the process, and improves organization-wide communication, so no one is out of the loop.

Provide multiple payment options to let each patient be a decision-maker

Paying clinical trial participants is a common way to show appreciation and give something back to those who sacrifice so much to advance medical research. The least we can do is allow them to select the best form of payment for their lifestyle. Enforcing the same payment method on all patients may result in some being stuck with an unfavorable type. This is especially important when considering not everyone has a bank account and not everyone is comfortable using more modern methods.

Electronic payment systems offer multiple payment options to participants, including debit cards, direct deposit, and even more traditional methods, like paper checks. Additionally, it provides them an online pay portal to check their balance, securely access account information and manage notification preferences for increased visibility at any time.

Utilize sophisticated infrastructure to prevent mistakes and keep sensitive data safe

It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re manually managing payments. An electronic system offers many guardrails to prevent data entry errors and ensure accuracy. By inputting protocol-specific payment limits ahead of time and using system validations – from in-app mileage calculations to minimum and/or maximum thresholds for mileage reimbursement – a warning message will display in the moment if a coordinator enters an amount that exceeds the maximum.

Additionally, a payment system provides security in many forms, beyond data encryption and backups. An electronic system can protect or limit the exposure of PHI for users who need to review payment requests without seeing participants’ names to ensure blinded identities. A system can also let the participant enter bank account information on his or her own for those who choose direct deposit. Logging into a personal portal is more secure than having the site collect this information, to prevent financial mishaps. For participants who choose to receive funds via reloadable debit card, providing support in case the card is lost or stolen will help prevent or resolve any fraudulent charges. Finally, an audit trail provides complete transactional history for the greatest transparency. 

Learn more

Both patients and research personnel live in an online world, where the payment landscape evolves quickly. Luckily, affordable, secure, simple tools are available to help research organizations keep up. Forte Participant Payments is a huge time-saver and lets you focus on what’s most important: the patients. If you’re ready to update how you pay subjects, learn more about how Participant Payments can help.