The HELPcard offers medical financing services to help both patients and health care professionals by making care affordable.

Based in Springdale, Ark, The HELPcard™, was established more than 20 years ago by a group of health care and business professionals. Recently, Hearing Products Report had the opportunity to interview Linda Westphal, manager of marketing, about the company’s future in the expanding health care marketplace.

Hearing Products Report (HPR): When was The HELPcard established and who were its founders? What is your position at the company?

Linda Westphal: The HELPcard was founded in 1983 by a group of health care professionals and bankers in northwest Arkansas. I am the manager of market development, and have been with The HELPcard for 14 years.

HPR: Just what is The HELPcard? What was the motivation for creating the company?

Westphal: The HELPcard is a full-service patient financing company. More than 20 years ago, many health care professionals found themselves in a changing medical environment. An increasing number of their patients were reluctant to receive service because they could not afford the out-of-pocket expense. The only solution at the time was to carry a large accounts receivable. With insurance benefits on the decline, many doctors found themselves working longer and harder, and bringing home less money. It became imperative for those professionals to provide an affordable method of payment to patients, while removing themselves from the lending process. Our goals have not changed much since the company’s inception. It is still to provide affordable monthly payment options to consumers while assisting merchants in growing the financial strength of their business.

HPR: Is the company privately owned? Are services offered nationwide?

Westphal: Yes, we are a privately held company that provides financing nationwide.

HPR: How many employees and outlets does the company have?

Westphal: We are an Oklahoma corporation with our processing center located in picturesque northwest Arkansas. We employ around 100 full-time equivalent individuals in our processing center.

HPR: How does The HELPcard differ from other lending companies?

Westphal: Being fully integrated allows us to have greater control over all aspects of service with both our merchants and cardholders. We believe our high approval rate, low discounts to the merchants, and flexible payments to the cardholders combined with our unparalleled customer service create a unique and valuable product.

HPR: How many hearing health care practitioners participate in the organization? How large is the company enrollment?

Westphal: We currently provide financing for approximately 2,000 hearing aid practitioners, as well as tens of thousands of other specialty health care providers.

HPR: Tell us about the company’s different financing and payment solution plans.

Westphal: We offer a variety of payment options. Medical providers can choose to offer patients 6 and 12 month deferred interest options. Or patients who need longer to pay can take advantage of extended repayment options, with payments as low as $25 per month.

HPR: How do clients qualify for benefits?

Westphal: Consumers complete a simple credit application. The application is submitted by phone while the patient waits, with approval in about 5 minutes. For less urgent approval, applications may be faxed or submitted by the Internet.

HPR: What are the benefits offered to the average hearing health care professional by using The HELPcard’s services? What are the benefits for the clients?

Westphal: Most hearing professionals we talk with tell us that most of their time is already invested with a patient before cost is discussed. If the patient can’t afford to purchase, that time is wasted. By providing such an easy, affordable way to finance hearing aids, The HELPcard enables hearing professionals to bring today’s technology to their patients, and increase profitability at the same time. Because of our generous approval rate, patients with no credit or with less than perfect credit are receiving top of the line hearing instruments.

HPR: What other practice venues does The HELPcard reach, other than the hearing health care industry?

Westphal: We finance for all types of health care, as well as related services, including home gym and durable medical equipment.

HPR: Does The HELPcard have plans for expansion? If so, please explain.

Westphal: Our business continues to grow and flourish, and we feel with our flexible program options and excellent customer service this trend will certainly continue.

HPR: Where do you see the company in 10 years?

Westphal: While other lenders are tightening their criteria for approval, we continue to see opportunity in that portion of the population that has proven to be stable, but who may not have extensive credit. In 10 years, we will be providing financing to that growing number of retiring Baby Boomers. We will also be expanding to allow those consumers to make purchases and receive service from a greater variety of health care providers. Our vision is to see health care professionals providing services to consumers without being tied to the standards set by insurance carriers.

HPR: Is there anything you would care to add?

Westphal: Most health care professionals did not envision becoming a collector when they choose the medical field. Thousands of them are relieved to just be able to provide the service their patients need, without the headache of financing. The HELPcard makes that happen every day. Knowing that makes my job very rewarding.

—R. Schuyler Silverman