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AP Card Program Reduces Paper and Costs for Mary Washington Healthcare

Customer: Mary Washington Healthcare

Fredericksburg, Virginia

Communication and trust are vital to the success of any patient-doctor relationship. This is why the people in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia have relied on Mary Washington Healthcare, an award-winning nonprofit health system, for more than 120 years. Mary Washington Healthcare, in turn, learned that those same qualities would be central to the growth of its electronic payments system.

Challenge: Automating a health organization’s Accounts Payable process

Every month, the Accounting Department at Mary Washington Healthcare processes thousands of invoices on behalf of their two hospitals, three emergency departments and 40-plus outpatient healthcare facilities in its growing system. Most have traditionally been paid by check.

"There are costs and risks associated with using paper checks,” explains Brenda Tate, accounting support manager, financial operations, for Mary Washington Healthcare. “Our objective is to receive and pay as many invoices electronically as possible.”

To achieve that objective, the department began to automate its manual payment processes in the early/mid 2010s. One of the solutions it sought was an Accounts Payable (AP) card program that would make it possible to pay some invoices using a virtual charge card, while earning a revenue share on each payment.

Solution: Adding Commerce Bank as a second AP Card provider

The program’s growth trajectory began to change in 2018 when the department added Commerce Bank as a secondary provider of AP card services. Tate says her AP team immediately noticed some differences.

“Our other provider expected us to do much of the legwork involved in enrolling suppliers in the program,” says Tate. “Commerce, on the other hand, just asked us to send a file of suppliers not yet enrolled.”

The Commerce team then reached out to each supplier on the list and managed the enrollment process, start to finish. The bank then periodically sent the health organization a spreadsheet with updates on each supplier’s preferred payment method.

“That was a big lift of work off our shoulders,” Tate recalls.

“And it didn’t stop there. Commerce continued to show strong interest in helping us grow the program and increase our revenue share. They asked us regularly for updated spend files they could use to enroll additional vendors.”

In 2021, Mary Washington Healthcare made the decision to consolidate the entire AP card program with Commerce.


Under Commerce’s direction, AP card payments at Mary Washington Healthcare grew 24% between 2021 and 2022, with the health organization’s revenue share achieving a commensurate increase.

Participating suppliers no longer need to wait for checks to arrive in the mail. Within 30 minutes of a payment file being uploaded, they receive an email from Commerce with a single-use digital charge card, which they can use to process their payment.

Enrollment in the AP Card program is ongoing, says Tate. “We regularly provide Commerce with spend files, and our bankers continue to reach out to our suppliers and help us grow our revenue base.”

The secret to the program’s success?

“It’s the customer service,” says Tate. “Hands down, Commerce consistently and constantly delivers the best service — both to us and to our suppliers.”

“The bank’s team is highly responsive, professional, approachable and helpful in their communication,” she adds.

“For suppliers that resist taking cards, Commerce offers other options. We have yet to receive a complaint from a supplier, and to me, that speaks volumes.”

Mary Washington Healthcare has reaped other benefits from the AP Card program as well, according to Tate.

“Our internal AP processes are now smoother and more efficient because of leveraging technology; including OCR, EDI, as well as electronic payments. Commerce bank is a part of the solution, with less paper to handle we reduce the risk of losing invoices as well as the cost for dispersing check payments,” she says.

Staff workload has also changed. “By taking advantage of technology, including Commerce Bank’s e-payable card, our internal processes are more efficient. With less paper to handle we reduce the risk of losing invoices.” Tate says.

“There will always be a need for paper checks,” she says. “But Commerce is helping minimize that need as we transition to more and more electronic payments. We have a very effective working relationship.”