6 Common Misconceptions About Participant Payment Systems

Kristina Lopienski
September 6th, 2018

Moving to more modern technologies is often necessary for clinical research sites to evolve and keep up with the industry. For example, sites are now recognizing they should update their patient payment solution. However, there are some false preconceived notions about what it means to use a participant payment system that can prevent sites from moving forward. Depending on the vendor a site uses for their participant payment system, some of these issues may be a reality, but we’re here to prove it’s not the case for every vendor.

Let’s clear up the most common misconceptions that surround the use of participant payment software.

Misconception #1: “You need to pre-fund an account that requires a minimum balance at all times.”

Cash flow is king at research sites. In the absence of advances from sponsors to cover the actual costs of start-up, sites can’t afford to move around large amounts of money in bulk just to prepare to pay participants. The good news is you don’t need to keep a minimum balance at all times or even keep an account pre-funded at all. We know funds are tight and every dollar can impact the financial health of sites left to finance the majority of out-of-pocket costs, such as subject stipends.

Misconception #2: “It’s too expensive for a small volume of trials or trials with a small number of payments to participants.”

This misconception likely consists of several myths rolled into one. We’ve heard sites think there will be a required number of loads to the card each month in order for an account to remain open, that they will be charged a hefty set-up fee, or that they will be nickel-and-dimed in other ways, such as a per-user fee or a monthly recurring subscription fee. Luckily, none of these are true (in our case at least). There are unlimited users, no minimum load requirements, no monthly fees and there’s no large investment upfront just to try it out. In fact, you don’t pay until you pay the participant. With simple and transparent pricing, you only pay for what you use, so there’s no need to worry if your site has a slower month; you are only charged when your patients come in for their study visits. No need to break the bank.

Misconception #3: “It’s only for debit cards.”

If you think adopting a participant payment system means you’re switching from offering checks to offering debit cards, think again. Many sites are realizing the need to be more participant-centric with their payments by letting each research volunteer choose their preferred form of payment. This involves offering more than one form of payment. If you offer debit cards, you should also offer checks, direct deposit, etc., because the best form of payment is the one the participant chooses. Additionally, no matter which option the participant chooses, site staff have the same simple workflow, meaning there’s no additional work for one method over another. Even better, sites can continue to offer checks while eliminating check processing at their site.

Misconception #4: “We don’t have the time and resources to implement a system.”

Study coordinators will hate that you’re making them use another system and your site staff don’t have time to learn it, right? Wrong. Our customers are typically ready to go live with Forte Participant Payments after an hour of training. In addition to the short learning curve, a system can drastically cut down the number of steps it takes to make payments. In fact, it’s a three-click workflow for study coordinators to pay participants as soon as the visit is completed. Rather than being a burden, a system should be optimized to reflect how research nurses are already interacting with patients.

Misconception #5: “It will interfere with accounting.”

Outside of the clinical workflow, there’s the finance team who negotiates, tracks, reviews and approves payments to patients. It’s likely they are already spending significant time reviewing and processing participant payments, often continuously receiving individual check requests. It’s nearly impossible to remember how much to pay each participant for each study visit on each protocol, as well as how much you can reimburse for travel. A more efficient and error-free approach is for finance teams to set the amounts in the system ahead of time. This, in turn, provides downstream benefits. By establishing protocol-specific visit stipend amounts and reimbursement allowances upfront, finance departments can ensure the correct amount is being paid at the right time. Finance departments can then use a review queue, or a “to do” list of requests not pre-set in the system, to approve, modify or reject payments. Not only does this help prevent accounting mistakes and data entry errors, it also makes it easy to track every payment for your site’s financial and tax reporting needs.

Misconception #6: “It’s only useful for stipends, not reimbursements.”

For pre-approved stipends that are expected and the same amount for each participant, coordinators can hit ‘Pay’ in the system at visit completion without having to wait for accounting to release the funds. For protocols that allow reimbursement payments for travel and require these receipts from participants, finance teams can handle requests that may vary patient-to-patient with ease. Reimbursement allowances known in advance can be entered in the system for study coordinators to see what’s accepted for that particular visit and protocol. This helps define expectations with participants (i.e., how much they can expect to be reimbursed). Coordinators can enter the patient-specific reimbursement amount and add comments for each type of reimbursement expense (parking, hotel, mileage, etc.). Because maximums for hotel and parking reimbursements can be set ahead of time, the system will display a warning message if the amount entered exceeds the maximum allowed. These requests are then sent to a review queue for the finance department. Since this is done in real-time, finance teams can stay up-to-date on when participants are at the site for study visits and see the affiliated payments made or requested by CRCs.

Hopefully this clears a few things up. If your site identifies with any of these misconceptions, we encourage you to check out Forte Participant Payments. The good news is our solution dispels these myths.

Learn more about Forte Participant Payments