We recently sat down with Curtis Bauer, Sphere Chief Product Officer, to learn about an innovative new product, Hosted Multi-Channel Payment Suite. This solution gives software vendors the power of accepting payments via many channels through one single integration.

Q1: You recently launched a hosted payments product suite for software vendors, what sparked the solution?

Bauer: That’s actually an interesting story. The Sphere Product team is constantly thinking about ways in which we can solve ISV needs in the most impactful, secure, but lightest way possible. One of our most successful ISV solutions is our Premier hosted payment page, which enables ISVs to accept card not present transactions within their SaaS based solution, e-commerce site, mobile, text or even email. In fact, calling it a hosted payment page is probably a bit of an understatement as it somewhat minimizes its robust capabilities. ISVs love the product due to its simple integration, branding and style continuity, as well as PCI scope reduction.

The Product team thought about ways we might be able to leverage all of the benefits that are inherent with our Premier hosted payment page, but allow us to expand it into other user scenarios, including the ability to accept EMV card present transactions. The team came up with an idea to leverage a fairly underutilized technological approach, which the team theorized might allow us to connect a traditional EMV card reader to a PC and process EMV transactions through a browser, without the need to install software on the desktop or leverage any antiquated java scripting to communicate with the EMV device. To test the theory, the Product team worked with our Development team and to make a long story short, the approach was proven to be viable and it ended up being the foundation for expanding our hosted payment page into an entire multi-channel hosted payment product suite.

Q2: What are the main problems this solution solves?

Bauer:  ISVs have four critical challenges as it relates to adding payment acceptance to their core product solution:

  1. How do they enable payments to their solution with the least amount of development effort
  2. How do they enable payments in a way that does not interrupt the user experience, keeping the same look, feel and flow
  3. How do they enable payments across multiple acceptance use cases
  4. Possibly the most important challenge, how do they ensure cardholder data does not reside within the ISV’s platform, minimizing their PCI footprint, while protecting their customers from cardholder data breaches

Our new hosted payment product suite solves for these critical challenges and much more. ISVs face so many challenges with bringing their products to market. As a payment processor and gateway platform, we have a responsibility to ensure payment acceptance doesn’t become one of those challenges, but more importantly, ensure payment acceptance enhances their core product offering to improve the overall value proposition to their customers.

Q3: How can this product suite fit into software vendors business models? Can you share an example?

Bauer: One of my favorite examples is an ISV that creates business management software for a bakery. Let’s say that the bakery sells their products from a retail location. They need the ability to accept card-present EMV transactions from their in-store customers through the ISV’s SaaS-based business management solution. The bakery also has a website where they accept orders for birthday cakes or other items, in which they need the ability to accept credit card transactions online. The bakery also has a cookie of the month club, where subscribers pay a monthly fee to enroll into receiving a dozen of their specialized cookies each month at a discounted price. The bakery needs the ability to accept a credit card, either in person or online, and then setup the card for a monthly recurring subscription billing. Finally, the bakery also takes orders over the phone for delivery. They need the ability to accept credit card information over the phone and process the transaction securely. Our hosted payment product suite not only provides the ability for an ISV to enable accepting payments via all of these scenarios, but it also allows them to do so while ensuring sensitive cardholder data is never stored within their platform, but is instead transmitted, processed and stored within the Sphere secure gateway. In addition, this only requires one simple integration, which allows the ISV to spend more time focusing on enhancing their core product instead of allocating precious development resources to managing their payment acceptance program.

If you would like to learn more about the Hosted Multi-Channel Payment Suite, read the fact sheet. To schedule a demo, click here.


Curtis Bauer, Chief Product Officer, brings more than two decades of payment industry experience with a core focus on Product, Technology and Corporate strategy. He has held Senior Leadership roles at TSYS, TransFirst and Vantiv. He is responsible for identifying and executing on our product strategy to help deliver growth by providing innovative solutions to our customers.

The Nilson Report, a leading publication covering payment systems worldwide, recently published an article on Sphere’s integration with VisitPay.

Click to read the full article.

Below is an excerpt.

Text to Pay in Healthcare

In 2000, the out-of-pocket expense for medical services received by workers with employer-provided health insurance ranged from 2.5% to 5% of the yearly total. In 2020, individuals with employer-provided or private insurance will be responsible for 20% to 35% of the cost of the healthcare they receive. For providers of healthcare, particularly hospitals connected to physician groups and a full range of related service providers, this means that 20% to 35% of their total revenue must be collected directly from the consumer.

Managing payments for large integrated healthcare providers is the business of VisitPay, formed 10 years ago by former Capital One credit card executives. Its software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based VisitPay platform is provided on a white-label basis at the website of the healthcare provider. It combines charges from hospitals and physician groups to present a single invoice to the patient, minus any payments covered by insurance companies.

This is a guest post from the team at VisitPay.

See how Sphere and VisitPay enable health systems to meet consumer expectations through Text to Pay. 

In this Q&A, Vincent Martino, Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder of  VisitPay, talks about the impact of the partnership on the patient financial experience.

Why is it important to offer financial support to patients via their mobile devices?

Vincent Martino: Offering mobile-enabled tools to manage and self-service healthcare billing obligations has become a baseline capability for any financial engagement strategy. Demand for a text to pay solution is clear through our continual extensive consumer research. In fact, about 50% of our VisitPay platform logins today are from a mobile device with some of our clients seeing that number approach 60%.

Many variables determine how patients manage bills and the best way to engage with these patients. Because patient preferences vary so broadly, health systems need to consistently provide patient-tailored and accurate financial information across multiple channels of communication. A one-size-fits-all billing strategy lacks the flexibility and personalization required to meet people where they are in their lives.

Now that many people – and not just younger generations – manage their lives through their mobile devices, more consumers expect to be able to manage their healthcare needs anywhere, anytime, and on their own terms. Most industries, including healthcare, are investing considerable resources to reach and engage with consumers through mobile devices.

Why is Sphere the right partner for VisitPay and how can this partnership benefit health systems and their patients?

Martino: We view Sphere as a market leader in payments technology, security and compliance. We’ve been working with Sphere for over six years to process payments securely on behalf of our health system clients. Together, we have launched a mobile payments solution called Text to Pay, which allows health systems to securely accept patient payments through text messages while integrating seamlessly with existing EMR platforms, like Epic. This solution gives patients an additional, convenient way to pay their healthcare bills.

What kind of health system can VisitPay and Sphere best serve?

Martino: Both VisitPay and Sphere are adept at serving large, multi-facility health systems. At VisitPay, we serve some of the largest health systems in the nation including Intermountain Healthcare, Texas Health Resources, Henry Ford, and Inova. These healthcare organizations typically already have a patient payment approach in place and are looking to open up new channels to collect payment easily and in a way that’s convenient for the patient. Another important aspect for our clients is that our platform is tightly integrated into their existing EMR providing ease for staff and a unified experience for patients.

How does it work and what are the key capabilities of Text to Pay?

Martino: The patient begins by opting into Text to Pay and storing a secure payment method. VisitPay monitors all billing activity and sends an automated notification via SMS when there is a new balance to pay. The system provides a great deal of flexibility in that patients can actually pay one or more balances at a time. For example, they can pay full or partial balances, create payments over time and set a payment threshold.

The system also has intelligence built in and uses automated text bot responses based on what the patient is trying to do. This gives the patient on-demand information should questions emerge while making payments. These text bots also share important information that a patient might require during the process, reducing the need to contact the health system call center.

All messaging to the patient, as well as text frequency, is customizable by the health system and configurable by the user.

How does Text to Pay help health system operations?

Martino: When patients are given self service tools, inbound calls to the health system drop significantly. Calls to make payments over the phone  become  less frequent, and fewer questions arise about how much patients owe since patient’s have insight and clarity around their bills.

An additional way Text to Pay supports health system operations is by having all payments automatically post back to the core billing system. This alleviates any need for manual intervention typically required for payment posting by revenue cycle staff. We also have created advanced proprietary logic to ensure no credit balances are created like many manual and automated payment methods do today.

What are the financial benefits for the health system offering Text to Pay? 

Martino: One of the biggest advantages of Text to Pay for a health system is getting paid faster. Text to Pay is based on automated alerts to patients, who naturally pay faster because notifications come directly to their phone, the device through which they manage their everyday lives. They schedule appointments, plan their social lives, order products and services, and manage their money through their phones. We know that patients are very responsive to texts and through the Text to Pay solution they will be alerted once their balance becomes known. With patients paying faster we anticipate days AR to go down.

How hard is it for a health system to implement Text to Pay?

Martino: We’ve designed this to be very easy to implement. It’s meant to be fully complementary to existing tools so it can be plugged into any existing payment portal, including MyChart. It doesn’t disturb or disrupt any payment solution already in place today. Additionally, deployments are easy. Some basic data is needed from the health system before automated notifications to patients can begin, and in turn we send data back to the health system for posting and reconciliation purposes . This can all be done in real time if the health system has those capabilities.

How can Text to Pay positively affect the patient’s financial experience?

Martino: There are patients who want a fast, flexible experience and are comfortable paying from their phones.  Text to Pay meets these patients where they are and in how they want to pay. We know that when patients are given options on how to pay, net promoter scores increase which in turn generates loyalty between patient and health system.

How does Text to Pay fit into and complement the broader VisitPay solution?

Martino: Text to Pay is one component of a much larger patient financial experience platform that incorporates machine learning, advanced analytics and the ability to capture data across ambulatory and acute-care billing systems. Through all our products, health systems can surface granular insights into patient preferences and expectations. This gives them the ability to present the right offer at the right time to each unique patient, while adhering to the health system’s policies. This ultimately drives higher patient satisfaction along with higher payments.

See Text to Pay in Action

To learn more about Text to Pay, click here to set up some time with a Solutions Consultant. If you are going to be at HIMSS, stop by booth #2488 to see it in action.

 

Solution enables health systems to meet consumer expectations for mobile payments while complementing EMR functionality.

Nashville, TN, February 27, 2020Sphere, Powered By TrustCommerce, a leading provider of end-to-end integrated payments and security software, today announced a new collaboration with VisitPay, the leader in patient financial engagement. Together, they have launched a mobile payments solution called Text to Pay, which offers healthcare providers the ability to securely offer and accept patient payments through text messages. This innovative solution complements existing payment channels already in place to give patients an additional, convenient way to pay their healthcare bills.

Offering mobile-enabled tools for patients to manage and self-service their medical expenses is essential for healthcare providers. With the rise of high-deductible health plans and co-pays, patients today are responsible for a greater percentage of their healthcare bills. Further, consumers’ perceptions of their healthcare experience are heavily influenced by the level of transparency and convenience provided by the billing experience. People manage their lives through their mobile devices and healthcare is no different. Consumers expect to manage their healthcare needs anywhere, anytime.

Consumers are already demonstrating their preference for mobile channels. Up to 60 percent of VisitPay platform logins are now made through a mobile device, and rapid adoption of this new Text to Pay solution is expected. “Our patients are looking for mobile payment solutions,” commented Mike Weed, senior vice president of financial operations at INTEGRIS Health. “It is important that healthcare financial leaders meet consumer expectations for a contemporary financial experience.”

To meet this demand, Text to Pay combines Sphere’s leading secure payments platform with VisitPay’s patient-centric expertise in a first of a kind solution to enable health systems to take payments over SMS without exposing any sensitive card or patient information, and utilizing a card token already collected from the patient. Without needing to download another app, consumers can pay single visits or multiple visits at a time, using credit, debit, or ACH. Payments are posted automatically to the corresponding visit in the billing system, ensuring convenience and efficiency for the provider revenue cycle team.

“Through our partnership with Sphere we can help health systems offer convenient and secure payment channels to their patients,” said Kent Ivanoff, chief executive officer of VisitPay. “Mobile access to the VisitPay platform already exceeds traditional desktop usage in some regions of the US. Text to Pay is an important solution for health systems looking to meet consumers where they are, without disrupting the core EMR environment.”

“As the payments ecosystem continues to expand and extend to new frontiers, security has to be first and foremost,” said Anthony Lucatuorto, chief revenue officer of Sphere. “We have deep experience working within EHRs like Epic and are excited to offer this complementary solution that will help our clients by integrating with their existing platform in a secure and compliant way.”

Sphere and VisitPay serve many of the most recognized large, integrated health systems composed of acute facilities, ambulatory service, and every physician specialty. VisitPay’s clients represent a total of $60 billion in annual net patient revenue.

Visit booth #2488 to see the Text to Pay demo during HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition, March 9-13, 2020 in Orlando.

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About Sphere
Sphere, powered by TrustCommerce, is a software and financial technology company providing integrated solutions that reduce friction and facilitate better and more secure commercial interactions with customers in specialized verticals markets, primarily healthcare, non-profit, transportation and education. Sphere’s integrated payments technology and security software enable its clients to process payments in a way that is highly secure and compliant, integrated with their core business software, omnichannel, and processor-neutral. Sphere’s partner-centric focused payments solutions serve small, midsize and enterprise level businesses and software companies in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. For news and thought leadership, visit the Sphere Blog.
About VisitPay
Founded in 2010, VisitPay is the leader in patient financial engagement. The company’s cloud-based platform is used by the nation’s largest and most innovative health systems to deliver transparency, choice and control to patients managing healthcare payments and transactions. Through VisitPay, patients can access a comprehensive accounting of their financial obligations, as well as critical health plan and healthcare information, via a health system-branded portal. VisitPay’s proprietary analytics tailor consistent and fully compliant financing options that meet the unique needs of patients and their families, creating a simplified billing experience that drives both higher payment rates and improved patient satisfaction scores. VisitPay’s investors include Norwest Venture Partners, Flare Capital Partners and Ascension Ventures. For more information about VisitPay, visit www.visitpay.com. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Visit our Company Blog to access case studies, thought leadership and news.

By Dr. Heather Mark, CCEP

The data economy has become so pervasive in today’s business that it sometimes is necessary to pause and think about where we’d be without the explosion of data that businesses have at their disposal.  Cloud software firm, Domo, releases an annual report each year on the astronomical growth of data.  Their report, Data Never Sleeps, provides a fascinating example of just how people are using the internet, leaving digital trails to be followed.  According to Data Never Sleeps 7.0, more than 511,200 tweets, 18, 100,00 texts, and 188,000,000 emails are sent PER MINUTE. And that doesn’t include our unintentional data creation – the Internet of Things, or our browsing history, or geolocation data. Our world runs on data, which means that as consumers, we need to be able to trust that our data won’t be misused by the companies with which we do business.

A PwC survey conducted in 2017, tells us that consumers are becoming more cynical about how companies handle data.  Just 25% of survey respondents believe that companies handle data responsibly and less than 15% believe that the data will be used to improve lives. Further, 87% of those respondents have said that they will take their business elsewhere if they don’t trust the data handling practices of a company.

In Francis Fukuyama’s book, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, he proposed the idea that trust and ethics was central to economic well-being.  “If people who have to work together in an enterprise trust one another because they are all operating according to a common set of ethical norms, doing business costs less…”  It costs less because we know that our colleagues and our partners will behave in ways that we expect, and that serve the good of the organization.  Similarly, as consumers, we are more likely to do business with organizations that we trust.

An essential element of trust is transparency. Again, referencing the PwC survey, 71% of consumers find the privacy policies posted by companies to be difficult to understand.  If a consumer believes that an organization is intentionally obfuscating its practices, trust erodes.  When trust erodes, consumers say they will take their business elsewhere.

The moral of the story here is that as we move more fully into the data economy, we must also move more fully into being trustworthy stewards of personal data.  We do that, by adhering to the letter and the spirit of the data protection laws and establishing strong information practices.  Some of those practices include:

  • Data Flow and Categorization – It sounds cliché, but you can’t protect what you don’t know you have. So, the first step that is typically suggested is doing a data flow or data mapping.  This helps you to determine where the date is coming from, how it’s being used, and who you might be sharing it with.  You may find that you’re collecting more data than you need, or that you’re sharing it with vendors that don’t need it.
  • Limit Collection of Data – Another old axiom in the data security and privacy business is “don’t collect what you don’t need.” To put it simply, it’s difficult to disclose or inappropriately use data that you don’t have.  Once you’ve done a data mapping exercise, you can review this with your team to determine which data is strictly needed as opposed to “nice to have.”  Moreover, many of the fair information practices are built on the notion of only collecting the data that you need to complete transaction with the individual.
  • Disclosures – Transparency with your constituency about what data you’re collecting and when, and how it’s being used is one of the simplest, but most important, steps that can be taken with respect to privacy. Visitors to your site, and consumers of your product or services, can’t make informed decisions about sharing their data if they don’t understand how that data might be used. Providing clear and concise information about your information practices helps to engender trust and stands you in good stead with legislative privacy regimes.
  • Awareness and Training – In today’s economy, most of our businesses and non-profits run on data. Whether we intend to or not, we become dependent on data transmission, data analysis, data storage, and data collection.  That means that everyone in our organization is going to encounter personal data at some point.  Given that fact, it’s important that your team knows what data is considered sensitive, and how that data is to be treated. An important part of training, that can be easy to overlook, is how to report a potential incident.  For example, what should be done if someone has emailed a payment account number?

The dilemma facing businesses today is encapsulated nicely in the January 2019 issue of the Frontier Technology Quarterly:

On one hand, the data economy is radically transforming many economic activities and creating new levels of prosperity. On the other, it presents the possibility of a perilous dystopia … A market economy cannot function without trust, and the data economy is no exception. Trust deficits can unravel the data market and undermine social cohesion, stability and peace.

 

The Sphere teams will be out and about at a variety of payments and industry events. Stop by and see us! Learn more about our end-to-end integrated payment solutions, security software, payments gateway and merchant acquiring products and services.

HFMA Symposium Region 10

January 12-15, 2020 | Las Vegas

 

 

WRUG Winter Conference

February 20-21, 2020 | San Diego

HIMSS20

March 9-13, 2020 | Orlando

Visit us at Booth #2488

Parking Industry Exhibition

March 22-25, 2020 | San Diego

OCHIN Learning Forum

April 27-29, 2020 | Portland