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Can automation make a difference in Dr. Ben’s credit card costs?

“Did you know,” Carmen asked her husband, “that there’s talk of bringing robots into restaurants like mine?”

Carmen’s pizzeria wasn’t exactly a fast food place, but Dr. Ben Wilson had seen something in the news about fast food restaurants going in for automation. “Wasn’t it in Japan that robots are taking the place of noodle chefs?”

“Japan and China both,” Carmen said. “They make sushi, too.” She stretched. They had gotten their son to bed and cleaned up the kitchen.”I’m not sure a robot could make good pizza, but I could sure appreciate one that cleaned the kitchen.”

Ben frowned in thought. “You’d think they could do that, but I guess cleaning requires a lot of mobility and dexterity.”

“And good pizza is an art,” Carmen added. “You can’t automate creativity.”

“You couldn’t replace your servers with robots either. There’s something about being served food that would be lost if it weren’t a human being.”

“I guess you’re safe from being replaced by a robot, then,” Carmen teased. “You need dexterity, expert knowledge, and people skills.”

Ben agreed. “But you know, a lot of things in the practice could be automated. Credit cards, to return to something we’ve been talking about recently. I know you didn’t come up with a way to reduce the fees, but what if we had a credit card system that automatically billed patients and collected their payments and posted them to the right accounts. It could alert us when a card was declined, charge the amount back to their accounts, maybe even alert the patient, too, so they could take care of it themselves.”

“That would be handy,” Carmen said. “People might want to talk with a human when they’re served food, but they’d probably be just as happy to avoid talking with a human when they have to sort out a payment.”

“It could even let us know if a card is about to expire. Those recurring charges — we pay a fee when the card is declined, and patients hardly ever remember to update their information with us.”

“That doesn’t sound impossible to me,” Carmen responded. “We get an email at the end of the business day showing how much we took in by credit card so we can reconcile it with our POS system. Why shouldn’t you get a daily report?”

“It would have to be connected somehow with the software we’re using to keep track of patient accounts,” Ben said. “But you’re right — it doesn’t sound as though it would require futuristic technology.”

“It wouldn’t even need a robot like the ones in the movies. If it were web-based so the information was accessible, a computer could do what you’re describing.”

Ben looked at Carmen seriously. “It would be more fun if it were like Jonathan’s toy robot. Something with arms and treads that would travel through the office would be pretty cool.”

“It might cost a lot, though,” said Carmen, getting into the spirit of the game. “Jonathan’s robot would probably use up as much metal as a car if it were life-sized.”

Ben laughed. “Seriously, though, a system that automated all that could save us a lot. You wouldn’t really need a human being to do those things, but they take up a day or more each month when people do them manually. An automated system could cut down on the time that goes into that and free someone up to do other things. It could be a savings for us even if the fees weren’t any lower.”

“That’s true. And the fees might actually be lower. I didn’t get anywhere negotiating with our bank, but I didn’t compare new systems with what we’re using now. So many things are automated now, it could really be a savings — especially if you caught errors.”

“Right — our plan to finance Jonathan’s college career through avoiding errors.”

“Don’t laugh! You could easily be losing that much money to errors. Find that payment processing robot and we can tell Jonathan a robot put him through college.”

Can automation make a difference in Dr. Ben’s credit card costs?
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