Mental Health Practice Billing: HIPAA Compliant Payment Apps
why HIPAA was created
HIPAA stands for The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and is a federal law signed in 1996 that provides protection of sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.
Essentially it means that any electronic transfer of information by a provider must be encrypted to provide the utmost security for the patients and the insurance companies. The law came to be because in the 1990s it became evident that the medical industry would become more efficient by computerizing medical records.
Because medical records are a piece of highly sought-after information for identity thieves and data trading, this law provides privacy and security measures to prevent these activities. In the mental health industry, this law offers confidentiality for people living with mental health illnesses and prevents them from being discriminated against.
HIPAA compliant Payments
With HIPAA-compliant payment, no personal information of a client is revealed to a third party. The risk of violating HIPAA compliance can be significant and you must understand them when you make a decision regarding instant payment apps. For example, the minimum fine for willful violations of HIPAA Rules is $50,000.
That said, billing and payment are the most important factors for your private practice. Besides providing you with a livelihood and the ability to pay your bills and expenses, they're also a big part of your marketing strategy.
Having a billing system that allows you to invoice your clients and provides them with a convenient paying option, will help you maintain a healthy relationship with your clients.
In contrast, when clients don't have a clear payment process to follow when your billing is inconsistent and they have to pay you by check or something as "archaic" as cash, it will create an internal resentment for them that will push them towards another provider or drop out of therapy altogether.
>> Remember, paying for therapy out of pocket is a big investment for many people and they need to feel like this financial aspect is being respected.
Billing software for mental health professionals
Historically, many therapists have been shying away from accepting credit card payments. Mostly because it's been easier to accept cash or checks.
Now, however, most clients prefer to use instant money transfers. It's convenient and virtually nobody carries around a checkbook with them anymore.
And while there are many e-transfer options available; like Zelle, Venmo, Apple Pay, and even Facebook, most of them are not HIPAA compliant to use for your therapy business.
The nature of your work demands from you to uphold a certain code of ethics by keeping your client's confidentiality. The problem with most of these very convenient payment apps is that they're not designed to preserve the identity of people using them as a secret.
On its website, NJPA posted this:
"For health care providers these apps present special privacy and security concerns. None of these services offer a business associate agreement where they agree to safeguard privacy and security under HIPAA. Many automatically share information with business partners and access contacts. These apps do not offer protections for nonpayment."
Simple Practice is an all-in-one HIPAA-compliant practice management software
That said, you can always just start using Square, which gives you a credit card terminal. Square is HIPAA compliant and you can even do your invoicing through Square as well. Many brick-and-mortar businesses use Square and if you see clients in person and handle billing on the spot, it may be a very good option for you.
>> It's important to remember that it's not a practice management tool, but strictly a credit card processing option.
Another additional benefit of using Square is the extra convenience of accepting FSA and HSA cards in case your business is set up for it.
are Venmo and Zelle HIPAA compliant?
For people who're tempted to use instant pay apps for their flexibility, this section is for you.
There are several methods for accepting instant credit card payments. But first I would like to list the ones that are NOT HIPAA compliant. Again, what makes non-HIPAA compliant payment apps dangerous is the transparency that can be used against your client's interests and confidentiality.
Venmo is NOT HIPAA compliant.
Zelle is NOT HIPAA compliant.
PayPal is NOT HIPAA compliant.
FaceBook Pay is NOT HIPAA compliant.
WorldRemit is NOT HIPAA compliant.
Cash App is NOT HIPAA compliant.
What makes these instant payment apps not secure for billing in your private practice, is the fact that they collect and sell user information like names and email addresses. These details are protected under HIPAA.
I would also stay away from Apple Pay and Google Wallet, even though Google Drive is technically HIPAA Compliant.
HIPAA-compliant payment apps and credit card processing services
The best way to manage your billing, uphold payment ethics, and be able to quickly transfer the money into your bank account is by using software built specifically for medical and therapy providers.
Ivy Pay instant pay app
If you're looking for a HIPAA-compliant instant pay app, Ivy Pay is the right solution for you. it offers one flat rate for all major cards, just 2.75% per charge. To give you a sense of perspective, Stripe (not HIPAA compliant) charges 2.9% per transaction plush 30 cents. So Ivy is a very reasonable credit card processing app.
In addition, it has no membership/monthly fees and you don't need to sign a contract to use it. You can get the Ivy Pay app on both iPhone and android phone versions so it's designed for your pure convenience.
EHR Software Payment Solution
Another way to charge your clients with a credit card is by using your EHR software. Luckily, most EHR software companies have developed services that are catered specifically to independent therapy practices, payment processing included. I will list the four most prominent solutions here. Full disclosure: I'm not affiliated with any of these companies, so my recommendations are based purely on my own research.
Simple Practice. As the name implies, this practice management tool is meant to make operating your therapy business easy. You can use it for billing, scheduling, documentation, and even telehealth. And it also has a mobile app, which is a must-feature for managing a business in 2022.
Kareo. Voted as one of the best 20 software for Mental Health practices, Kareo is meant to be a very user-friendly and all-inclusive practice management tool. It is a little more expensive but offers an analytics tool to help you better understand your revenue data as well as the telehealth feature. And, it also, has a mobile app.
Therabill. Geared toward speech-language pathologists, developmental therapists, social workers, behavioral/mental health specialists, psychologists, and nutritionists, Therabill is meant to be especially convenient for claims processing.
Therapy Notes. One of the most trusted software by mental health providers, Therapy Notes is focused on making administrative work easy for a busy private practice. It includes all the billing and payment features that you need to help you get paid quickly and efficiently.
As a business owner, I understand and encourage the will to offer convenience to your client. After all, convenience is one of the main driving forces in today's consumers' mentality. But I also want you to make sure that you protect yourself and your business, by using HIPAA-compliant payment solutions.
True, they might add to the operational cost of your private practice, but they also reduce the risk of future complications and help you stay organized.
Let me know which applications and software you use for your practice. Also, why did you choose the one you use?