$$ - Integrated EFTPOS

Introduction

This article introduces the concept of integrated EFTPOS, a potential “by-product” of the Medicare Easyclaim system that promises to deliver efficiency benefits to practices, regardless of whether they choose to adopt the Government’s new patient billing initiative.

What Is It?

As with Medicare Easyclaim, “integration” in the medical practice context refers to the connection of the EFTPOS terminal to the practice’s billing system.

Integrated EFTPOS solutions are commonplace in high customer volume shops such as supermarkets, petrol stations, department stores and post offices. With the ever-increasing proliferation of technology however, an increasing number of smaller businesses are seeking to adopt integrated EFTPOS solutions.

Under the current “unintegrated” systems found in the vast majority of Australian medical practices, after generating an invoice in their practice software, reception staff need to manually re-key the transaction amount into the EFTPOS terminal keypad.

Under an integrated system however, this step is typically reduced to a single mouse click on the practice software’s invoicing screen. The transaction amount is sent directly from the computer to the EFTPOS terminal, readying it for the patient to enter their account type and pin number via the terminal keypad. After the transaction has completed, the terminal sends data back to the computer to indicate whether or not the transaction has been completed successfully.

Benefits

The most obvious benefit of integrated EFTPOS is that the entry of the transaction details do not need to occur twice (i.e. once into the practice software and again into the EFTPOS terminal). The benefits that flow from reducing duplicate data entry revolve around increased operator efficiency and a reduction in data entry errors.

In addition, the process of reconciling the EFTPOS terminal with the practice software is all but eliminated under an integrated scenario, as the practice software is perpetually aware of transactions conducted through the terminal. While perhaps less of a risk in medical practices than in typical retail operations, integrated EFTPOS solutions can also reduce the chance of fraud.

Finally, most integrated EFTPOS solutions will consume less desk space than their stand alone cousins, as they reduce cable clutter and allow receipt printing to be consolidated to one unit.

Why Isn't It Available Now?

Historically, banks have not found it commercially viable to deal with the many different software solutions that would potentially benefit from integrated EFTPOS. Instead, they utilise software products that act as an intermediary between the banks EFTPOS infrastructure, and the various Point Of Sale (POS) software solutions.

Despite the existence of these “middleware” software products, three major factors have conspired against the proliferation of integrated EFTPOS solutions in the GP and Specialist practice market:

  1. The terminals and software required to deploy an integrated solution are expensive, frequently costing over $1,000 per “checkout lane”.
  2. The fragmentation of the practice software market means that most developers would not be able to sell their integrated EFTPOS solution to enough customers to justify the cost of development.
  3. The major banks already have their unintegrated EFTPOS solutions deployed in the vast most medical practices, and therefore don’t have any incentive to actively promote integrated solutions.

Enter Easyclaim

The emergence of the Medicare Easyclaim system has the potential to nullify the aforementioned roadblocks and encourage the development of integrated EFTPOS solutions for medical practice reception counters.

Given that stand alone implementations of Medicare Easyclaim will have little chance of being adopted, banks will, for the first time, have a commercial incentive to work with practice software vendors to deliver integrated Easyclaim solutions. While they share much in common, integrated EFTPOS solutions are technically easier than integrated Medicare Easyclaim systems to develop. It follows therefore, that integrated EFTPOS functionality is likely to be bundled with every integrated Easyclaim solution released to the market.

Conclusions

While it is likely to be several months before such solutions appear on the market, integrated EFTPOS systems look set to finally become a reality for medical practices. Practices are advised to stay abreast of the plans of both their bank and practice software vendors.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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