Automated Billing: Increase Time with Patients, Practice Profitability

Physician practices are very aware of the growing amount of deductible collection that will be necessary with the huge influx of eligible patients under the Affordable Care Act. But while they are very aware, this doesn’t necessarily mean they have measures set up to best prepare for this influx. If they have set preparatory measures, are those measures helping to simplify processes and work flow, or is there now just more work to be done?

Eligibility All of the physicians I work with go into practice to help and heal people. They didn’t study medicine to then explore the ins and outs of all things payer, billing, and appointment reminders. For those with smaller practices, they and maybe one other clinical staff member are multitasking; handling everything from diagnosis to accounts receivable follow-up, and even eligibility verification. Add back- and front-office operations to that and you’ve got a formula for loss in revenue and harried business operations. Some of the most prevalent and common issues I see physicians’ practices face include:

  •  Increased cost in overall operations
  • Reimbursements and revenues decreasing
  • High deductibles or increased patient deductibles
  • Delays in collection of deductibles and other balances due to billing inaccuracies
  • Employee compensation increases
  • Overall inflation of business operation costs
  • Confusion about healthcare reform specifications for small- to mid-sized practices
  • Failure or lag in communications through traditional phone calls and mailed letters

But there is a better way: Automating billing and collection systems that will maximize profitability and increase time with patients. While undoubtedly there will be skepticism from some physicians after a decade of the failed promises of enhanced productivity and improved care from many EHRs and other systems, automated billing can be done, and at a cost that won’t elicit sticker shock. You can:

  • Streamline collection methods. This can often be a bane for back-office operations to say the least. Manual collections often result in massive amounts of paper records, hard copy mailings, and staff hours following up with patients on balances owed. Your office staff should be welcoming patients and becoming more involved in their care to help keep them with the practice; not manually dialing phone number after phone number so you can get dollars in the door. Additionally, just because you have the staff to do the office work, doesn’t necessarily mean that work is done cost-effectively and successfully.
  • Increase/better target use of communication such as secure text, e-mail, and phone calls. Similar to my above point, free up your back-office operations to do the most important things for your practice. By targeting communication channels specific to your patients’ likes and needs, you streamline your practice operations. You aren’t hard-copy mailing a young patient who only responds to text messages. You aren’t e-mailing a patient who checks e-mail once every month.
  • Report non-responsive debtors to credit bureaus and/or legal departments to take the workload off of the practice staff. By automating processes, your staff isn’t bogged down by work when people don’t pay. There are solutions to freeing up their time and making sure your practice profits.

Here’s an example that might apply to your practice: Take a look at your eligibility verification. If each claim denial costs your practice $25 to $30, and you know your denial rate is above the industry average of 3 percent, the monthly cost for eligibility verification in advance of patient visits shows an outsourcing company with this specialty effectively pays for itself. As a patient, and with friends and family who are patients, I want to know that when I see the doctor that he is able to be clear minded and exclusively focused on my care or the care of my family member. With automated billing solutions in place, physicians can focus on the practice of medicine, freeing their time to focus on patient care, and work with their office staff to maximize profitability. Vishal Gandhi is chief executive officer of ClinicSpectrum, leaders in hybrid work flow solutions consisting of both an innovative software suite and back-office operations. E-mail him here. See more at: http://www.physicianspractice.com/blog/automated-billing-increase-time-patients-practice-profitability#sthash.rsbGuhJD.dpuf

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