TANZANIA: Implementing Cashless Payments in Hospitals

December 2016 TheCitizen; In our healthcare system where out-of-pocket payment system is prevalent, it is very common for clients to use cash in making payments for the healthcare services.

But as the adoption of information technology and communication (ICT) use in healthcare increases, cash payment systems are now becoming obsolete.

We witness government agencies and other healthcare stakeholders advocating the use of electronic payment system, a purely cashless system, in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Working in close partnership with commercial banks in a good number of healthcare facilities – both public and private – are tremendously adopting e-payment system.

As it has always been the case, more healthcare facilities in urban areas are already using this technology as compared to facilities in rural areas.

 The shift of payment system towards electronic payment system is now a trend as many other industries are already using this technology. E-payment system is actually part of e-commerce. E-payments refer to payments that are initiated, processed and received electronically. As for the case here, is the act where patients pay for the healthcare service electronically. There are varieties of e-payment systems and to mention a few, there are debit card, credit card, mobile money, smart card and electronic cheques. The most common e-payment systems that are widely applicable in healthcare system include debit card, mobile money and smart cards.

E-payment system in Tanzania, as highlighted before, is tremendously being adopted by many hospitals and other healthcare facilities. There are approximately over a hundred and fifty healthcare facilities already in the game of using electronic payment system for medical services and the number is expected to go higher up.

Notable hospitals are Bugando medical centre- Mwanza, KCMC, Mbeya referral hospitals and so on. Despite the fact there are over fifty commercial banks in the contemporary Tanzanian banking systems, only few banks are pioneering in e-payment system in healthcare.

How does the system operate? Taking the case of e-payment system offered by CRDB bank, as an example, a patient is required to have only a debit card.

  These cards are sold to patients at an affordable rate. The patient can load the card via CRDB established station in the respective hospitals or through mobile money transaction.

At this point, a client presents this loaded debit card to the hospital cashier where the cost of service is directly deducted electronically.

The transacted amount goes directly into hospital bank account. No cash is being involved. There are various modes in the market and we hope to experience other different approaches as many other commercial banks will be entering this field.

 The advantages

To begin with individual patients, e-payment systems remove completely the risky behavior of carrying cash whenever they go for the healthcare service to hospitals.

One can use this debit card to keep reserve of money for future healthcare purposes especially those who don’t have insurance cards.

Patients are automatically entered into the bank system, which is arguably a good thing as many Tanzanians are far less involved in formal banking system.

With regards to healthcare facilities, there are several advantages too. The first and foremost is stabilisation of hospital financial control system.

 There are many reported cases of fraud and theft in hospitals only because of the presence of cash payment system. Government and other stakeholders are advocating the use of these e-payment systems because it’s the only way to avoid these issues.

E-payment systems use in hospitals has been reported to increase the overall hospital income drastically.

This technology has helped in improving the quality of healthcare through cutting down administration cost, patient’s queue management and many other important aspects.

Adoption of e-payment systems in healthcare system is never an easy task. Patients have expressed their concerns regarding their fear to use the system.

Largely contributed by factors like: fear of unknown, lack of education on the system and the likes. Poor infrastructures and power issues are among many hindering factors to adoption rate of e-payment system.

For the moment, e-payment system is one of the key technologies every hospital ought to have as far as out-of-payment is concerned. Let’s continue to exploit technology in solving prevalent challenges.

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