The Risk and Drain of Patient Reimbursement

Like many research institutions around the world, one of the nation's premier institutions for medical education, basic research and clinical investigation issues stipends to keep its clinical trial participants engaged throughout their studies.

Issuing stipends to clinical trial participants seems simple enough – pay the subject for their time and be on your way. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Distributing cash and checks can be extremely time consuming, particularly when you are conducting numerous studies with hundreds of participants.

Distributing cash is risky. At the college of medicine, more than $1 million is spent on subject reimbursements each year. This process is not only risky, but also time consuming. The finance department was tasked with distributing this money to the study coordinators who would then distribute it to the patients. Each month, the coordinators would receive a bag of cash for its patient reimbursement fund. They would then be responsible for manually recording the financial transactions – distracting the coordinators from completing their study.

Handing out bags of petty cash to coordinators would take an entire day. There would be a line of coordinators at the finance department door all day, further draining the time and resources of the finance team.

With all this manual effort, it was clear to the institution that there could be a more automated process that minimizes both the effort and risk for distributing subject stipends.

A Better Way to Pay

That is what brought the college to ClinCard. In 2012, it began rolling out the solution across the research program. At first, there was resistance from the coordinators, citing concerns that study participants won’t want this form of reimbursement, that they prefer cash.

While the automation advantages were clear – a reimbursement mechanism like ClinCard could save time and money – would a potential participant backlash be worth it?

Sure was.

Turns out – participants prefer the reloadable debit card reimbursement solution. They found it easier, more in line with how they spend their money and more secure. Unlike cash, if the card is lost or stolen, it is replaceable. Also, they did not lose any time in receiving a stipend. Funds were put onto their cards almost immediately.

Beyond that, the college of medicine, saw a dramatic optimization and savings in their resources.

The finance department gained back the time that was previously spent distributing the petty cash and then manually reconciling and tracing the financial transaction activity. The resources spent on these tasks have been redirected to more strategic financial initiatives related to budgeting, planning and reporting.

Study coordinators no longer spent time obtaining the cash from finance and manually recording the financial distribution of the funds to study participants. They could now remain focused on the study activities and moving the research along.

Today, nearly 75 percent of the subject reimbursements are automated through the ClinCard solution. The time, cost and resource savings combined with an improved trial experience for the participants has exceeded the expectations of the entire college.

As the solution expands throughout the research department and new users get up to speed on the technology, the Greenphire support and implementation team has been able to assist in ramping up and ensuring there is little to no disruption in the processes of the research department. Whenever there is a question, the support team is right there to resolve any hurdles and allow the college to get back to their work.


Today, nearly 75% of the college's subject reimbursements are automated with the ClinCard.

Download the College of Medicine Case Study