The Theresa & Eugene M. Lang Center for Research & Education—the clinical trial and research arm of New York Hospital Queens (NYHQ)—has replaced its paper-check payment system for clinical trial participants. Instead, patients who earn a stipend for participating in a clinical trial receive a Mastercard card preloaded with their allotted funds.
The card was created by Payoneer, a provider of prepaid cards to companies that need to remit payments to remote, dispersed populations. Designed specifically for the clinical research market, the cards alleviate the burden of paying cash or checks to trial participants. Payoneer said about a dozen contract research organizations and investigative sites are using its Mastercard system.
Karen Hultberg, NYHQ’s research administrator, first heard about the prepaid card concept at a conference where Payoneer was exhibiting. She said she could tell immediately that the cards would help smooth NYHQ’s method for paying study stipends.
“[Our process] was just very, very, very cumbersome. Let’s say we were doing a study, and [participants] have 10 visits. A patient would come in for Visit 1, and they might have to get reimbursed for $20. We’d have to get a check request. We’d have to get appropriate signatures. We send it to finance, they cut a check—which could be anywhere from one to three months before we get the check. Then, we send it to the patient. By that time, they could have been to Visits 2, 3, 4 and 5,” Hultberg said. “It was just very paper-heavy and cumbersome to do any type of an immediate thank you or [to give] feedback to our subjects for participating in a study.”
The ready-to-use cards are branded with the NYHQ logo and delivered directly to the research site. NYHQ assigns the cards to patients and loads them online when a patient stipend is due. The cards, which do not identify trial participants in any way, can be reused multiple times when a study encompasses many visits over a period of time. Patients can use the cards anywhere that accepts Debit Mastercard.
NYHQ, which currently has 120 active studies, began using the prepaid cards last year. Before implementing the new payment process, Hultberg worked with her staff, information technology and finance to ensure that the process was acceptable to all and secure for both patients and NYHQ.
Rather than submitting dozens of individual check requests to the finance department, the research department now only needs to do an occasional request for a large lump sum to replenish the Payoneer master account. From that account, approved users (only Hultberg and the office manager) can load cards with smaller amounts to pay study participants, and the finance department gets regular reports of the money spent and what study it was spent on.
“[Patients] walk in the door. Our coordinator tells our office manager, ‘I have a patient today, eligible for $20.’ If they’ve already been in the study, all she has to do is go online, click ’$20,’ and they add another $20 to the debit card,” Hultberg said.
Hultberg estimated that the prepaid cards save the research and finance department staffs about a half-day of work each week. Perhaps most importantly, study participants love the new system.
“Do they have any problem? On the contrary, they love it. because they’re literally walking out the door with the $20,” Hultberg said. “Before, they’d have to sit and wait a month or so. And then they have to go to the bank, which is a pain. They’re not participating for the money; that’s not why these people do it anyway. But if we can help give back and retain the subjects to keep them in the study, all the better.”