Summary: Orthodontic practices increasingly rely on practice management and electronic medical record (EMR) software to enhance operational efficiency and patient data security. However, these platforms may inadvertently lock practices into specific payment processors, potentially raising costs due to increased processing fees.

Key Takeaways:

  • EMR and practice management software can streamline operations but may also bind practices to payment processors that increase fees.
  • Regular software updates and monitoring of credit card statements are critical to avoiding unnecessary financial burdens and compliance issues.
  • Engaging with outside specialists or educating practice staff on financial oversight can mitigate risks and optimize costs associated with practice management software.

By Eric Cohen

Practice management and electronic medical record (EMR) software has become a must-have for orthodontic practices. And for a good reason: These solutions have an immense positive impact on the average office. From streamlining transactions to easily and securely storing patient data, these solutions can provide the proper set of tools to improve internal operations and enhance the efficiency of your practice while keeping the safety and security of clients top of mind.

The potential problem with payment processor EMRs

However, the potential downside of these software platforms is that they can lock orthodontic providers into a specific plug-in that is bundled into the platform. For example, a dedicated tie-in to a payment processor. If not managed properly, this can create a further financial burden for the practice. Many payment processors have relationships with EMR and practice management providers. These payment processors will offer their services as part of the practice management software provider’s suite of products—and the payment processors may then take this as an opportunity to increase processing fees.

Two ways to prevent unwanted processor fees

While this may—and frankly, should—raise red flags in your mind, the good news is that this is far from an unfixable issue. Specifically, there are two methods of preventing unwanted fees from your processor in these scenarios:

  1. When your practice management software rolls out updates, you must incorporate these updates to avoid potential financial burdens. These software patches include updates to critical parts of your operation, including security and compatibility improvements. Waiting too long to update these tools can lead to several negative outcomes, such as potential HIPAA violations that can lead to serious fines and reputational damage. Knowing when to update your software can help you remain compliant and avoid potential burdensome fines.
  2. In a similar vein, you should closely monitor your credit card statements on a regular and ongoing basis. This can help you identify potential processing rate increases that you were not previously aware of. Some processing fees can’t be avoided, as it’s the cost of taking credit card payments, but additional fees are often added on top of those to increase your average monthly payment. Again, proactivity is the best solution to bring down these processing fees; if you’re able to understand what fees might have been raised without merit, and negotiate with your processor to lower them, you’ll save crucial funds in both the short and long term.

    How to implement best practices

    These solutions can be accomplished in one of two ways. The most direct way to avoid unnecessary costs is to educate your office manager or the team working on the practice’s payments, ensuring they monitor your merchant statements for any changes or increases. You should also verify the email address on file with your software provider is up to date, allowing you to receive any notices and make necessary approvals for updates.

    Monitoring and understanding the fees on your statements can be particularly challenging, however, and is not always feasible in a busy practice. Alternatively, you can work with an outside specialist who can help you identify areas of risk and drive cost savings. In addition, they can help you ensure you’re getting the best ROI from your practice management solutions. No matter the approach you choose, take action before you face initial or further financial penalties. OP

    This is Part 3 of a four-part series we will be bringing you in the coming weeks. Part 1 talked about how credit card processors overcharge 72% of businesses. Part 2 talked about why skipping your annual PCI survey will cost your practice. And Part 4 will explain how practicing good payment processing hygiene can strengthen your practice’s valuation.

    Eric Cohen is the CEO and founder of Merchant Advocate, which works with merchants, including private practice owners, to reduce credit card processing fees from the unregulated credit card industry without having to switch processors.