When venturing into the payment processing industry, it can be hard to differentiate common terminologies that are frequently used. The two most common terms that are used in this industry are payment portal and payment gateway.
The Defined Difference Between Portal and Gateway
A quick search on dictionary.com leads almost no help in determining the difference between these two words…
a doorway, gate, or other entrance, especially a large and imposing one.
the whole architectural composition surrounding and including the doorways and porches of a church
the approach or entrance to a bridge or tunnel
a communicating part or area of an organism specifically: the point at which something (such as a pathogen) enters the body
a website serving as a guide or point of entry to the World Wide Web and usually including a search engine or a collection of links to other sites arranged especially by topic
By laying all of these various definitions out, what the payment processing industry means when they say portal is the fifth definition. Now let’s look into the definition of gateway…
an opening for a gate
From a literal definition standpoint, gateway is almost identical to portal. In fact, both of the words are synonyms of each other. So is there a difference?
Payment Portal vs. Payment Gateway
Now that we’ve established how the dictionary defines portal and gateway, let’s determine the difference between a payment portal and a payment gateway.
Defining a Payment Portal
A payment portal is a website or portal where customers, clients, and patients can make payment directly.
Payment Portals in Healthcare
Think of an online store, when you shop online you add items you want to buy into to a cart. Once you are done shopping, you click on the “view cart” button to see everything you are purchasing. When a patient visits their doctor’s office the items they are purchasing are procedures, appointments, and prescriptions.
After the patient visit, as long as their insurance claim wasn’t denied, they receive a statement. For this analogy, the statement is the item in the cart. The item, or in case the statement, contains sensitive Patient Health Information (PHI) which must be encrypted and only viewed by HIPAA compliant entities. That’s where payment portals come in. Payment portals in healthcare are the equivalent to carts in e-commerce.
Defining a Payment Gateway
Payment gateway is almost interchangeably used in tandem with payment portal. A payment gateway is a portal integrated within a website. The payment gateway is the technology that ensures the secure transfer of sensitive payment information.
Payment Gateways in Healthcare
Referring back to our analogy, the payment gateway is similar to the “Enter Payment Details” and the “Confirm Payment” screen on an e-commerce website.
But what happens when you click confirm payment?
Defining a Payment Processor
Payment processors transmit the data between the merchant, the merchant’s bank, and the customer’s issuing bank. In a physical sense, payment processors are the entities that provide credit card machines and other equipment you can use to accept credit card payments.
Payment Processors in Healthcare
To conclude our analogy, when a customer clicks the “Submit” button on the “Confirm Payment” screen, the payment processor communicates to the bank and draws the necessary funds. This is handled the same way when a patient clicks “Submit” from the payment gateway to pay their statement.
We offer a solution, Customer Access Plus, that allows healthcare and commercial entities create customer payment portals that reflect their brand and enable secure payment through credit, debit, eCheck, ACH payments. Additionally, we’ve teamed up with BillingTree who offers a payment gateway and processor for healthcare entities.
How does your healthcare organization utilize payment portals?