Empowering patients to ensure their physician does not miss-out on opportunities to be a better provider

It is observed that on a normal day in the office, the average physician misses an ample of opportunities to engage with their patients. The reason behind this being their busy schedules. Research indicates that this happens because physicians do not have the proper patient-centered communication skills and awareness.

On a typical visit, patients provide their physicians with a number of verbal and non-verbal cues, indicating their thoughts and feelings. This is done to pose a question or just to show concern. The value of the cue is directly dependent on the physician understanding it.

Let’s break down a typical day in the office to better analyze the opportunities involved. On an average, a physician receives 3-4 Patient complaints, 2-3 requests and there are around 4-5 patient expectations.   Add them together and we have 9-12 opportunities, per visit. This is a substantial amount. Hence, it is of utmost importance that attention needs to be paid to those cues.

The cues may be apparent; like a patient complaining of depression, but more often, those cues are not clearly stated and the doctor needs to observe the patient’s body language, facial expressions, etc. to get the hint. Regardless of how a patient expresses them, these cues are opportunities to engage the patient.

Let us take an example to understand this better. Following is a brief conversation about the patient’s knee, and there are 4 cues that the patient expressed verbally.

Doctor: So, how is your exercise regimen since your last visit?

Patient: I’ve haven’t been feeling so great ever since I slipped on the ice and my knee hasn’t been as cooperative. I’ve been missing the exercise.

Doctor: How about the diet? Are you still sticking to it?

Patient: Yes, but…

Doctor: Well, now that the weather is warmer, you could get back to the jogging that we talked about before.

Patient: How about doing an MRI of the knee to check if I have torn something. A similar thing happened to my friend and she got an MRI. Turns out, she had torn her cartilage.

Doctor: If your knee continues to bother you after a month, come and see me.

The 4 cues actually represent 5 opportunities for the doctor. Those opportunities could be utilized to:

1.   Demonstrate that the doctor was paying attention and listening to the patient.

2.   Show comprehension of the patient’s expectations

3.   Relate and empathize with the patient.

4.   Explain why MRI isn’t a necessary procedure at this point of time.

5.   To integrate a diagnosis and a treatment plan in a way that the patient can buy into it.

The reason for a potential “fall-out” due to the response of the doctor to those cues would be:

·         Feeling of mistrust

·         Feeling that the concerns were dismissed easily

·         Feeling that the whole visit was a waste of time

·         Problem not resolved

Long-term potential outcomes might include:

·         Patient acting against the doctor which could cause the problem to worsen.

·         Dissatisfaction

·         Patient doesn’t share potentially relevant health information in future visits.

·         Patient decides to visit the ER instead of seeing the physician

Let’s estimate that the average patient visit generates around 10 such cues, which is a conservative number. If the physician identifies and addresses 50% of those cues, it would leave 5 missed opportunities per visit. This analysis would add up to a 110 missed opportunities on a typical business day. Which makes 440 missed opportunities a week and a staggering 22,880 opportunities a year for just one physician.

Think about the impact the physicians in your provider network could make if they were made aware about some basic communication skills which would enable them to be mindful of, acknowledge and properly respond to these cues in a way that the patient would appreciate.   Investing in improving these skills would no doubt have a significant impact.

Outsourcing Selected Back-Office Tasks at Physician Practices

This article was published on MedMonthly.com

Each step within the revenue cycle management (RCM) process at physician practices builds on previous tasks, so mistakes made early in the process can end up snowballing into larger problems.

The task of verifying patient eligibility is a perfect example. If done improperly – or not done at all – claims can later get denied and the practice is forced to forego the revenue generated by that encounter.

Although vital to any physician practice, back-office functions are often tedious, time consuming and costly. To reduce the burden of these tasks, practices can choose to outsource specific RCM components to help streamline operations. Two specific functions that are ideal for outsourcing include patient eligibility verification and payment posting to help with the following:

1) Applying correct payment to patient responsibility as deductibles have become a big issue.

2) Applying correct payment to secondary responsibilities.

3) Creating a follow up work queue for denied or partial paid claims when compared with Insurance Fee schedule.

Eligibility checking is the single most effective way to prevent insurance claim denials. Outsourcing this service is simple. The service provider retrieves a list of scheduled patient appointments and verifies coverage using one of three methods:

  1. Online, using insurance company websites and payer portals
  2. Calling the interactive voice response (IVR) systems at insurance companies and working through menus to determine eligibility status
  3. Calling insurance company representatives directly when online or IVR options are not available, or to resolve more complicated situations

Outsourcing payment posting and reconciling is also a simple process, and enables providers to determine if full reimbursement was received. Outsourced service providers accomplish this via two ways:

  1. Manual posting – Paper explanation of benefit (EOB) statements received by physicians are collected and sent to the billing service by one of two methods. They can scan documents and send them to the service electronically, or they can simply send the paper documents to the service. Payment posting is performed in batches to ensure proper accounting and to reconcile bank deposits with EOB statements
  2. Auto posting – When EOB payments come in the form of electronic remittance advice (ERA), these files can be downloaded directly into the physician’s practice management system. All posting is done directly in the system, so providers can audit at any time.

Outsourcing selected components of the RCM process is an easy way for practices to streamline operations, decrease denials and ensure payment accuracy. More importantly, it’s a great way to get tasks completed correctly the first time, rather than having to endure the headaches of correcting them later in the RCM process.

By Julia Solooki
Director of Business Development/Marketing

– See more at: http://medmonthly.com/slide/outsourcing-selected-back-office-tasks-at-physician-practices/#sthash.gmTI0PAF.dpuf

How Hybrid Workflow Changed Our Practice: 10 Questions with Practice Administrator Nelly Gamboa

Credentialing ServicesClinicSpectrum: How long have you been using ClinicSpectrum?

Nelly: Union County Cardiology has been using the full suite for about 10 years now. We began using billing services and expanded the relationship to use credentialing and billing services.

CS: What do you like the most?

N:  That’s easy. I enjoy that I don’t even have to think about eligibility—all of our patients are confirmed to have insurance prior to their appointment, which considerably cuts down on A/R follow-up and denials management. My monthly headaches have been greatly reduced!

CS: What was the key factor to your decision to implement CS solutions?

N: Time is incredibly important. Saving time means getting paid and settling claims faster, allowing us more time to work on the most important part of the business, our patients. Anything that is proven to save me time is a winner in my book.

When we were doing entire process ourselves time was 30 minutes and cost was $8 to 10 per claim. With ClinicSpectrum, the cost of denials came down to $4 to $5 per claim.

CS: What are the 3 biggest challenges faced by physician’s practices?

N: While I wouldn’t have stayed in this career for so long if I truly didn’t enjoy, the fact is, like with any company, there are daily challenges that the team running a practice faces. From my perspective, I’d have to say that the three biggest challenges are managing efficient operations, staying up to date with all the changes necessitated by healthcare reform, and lastly, and in part linked to the changes in healthcare reform, is managing patient eligibility.

The good news is that there are solutions that greatly aid us in addressing these challenges. ClinicSpectrum’s hybrid workflow model lends itself to efficient operations, by coupling automation and outsourced human follow-up, allowing us to make the highest profit. At the same time, it’s my responsibility to be informed of all reform changes, which can affect every part of our business.

Profitability is hugely determined by adherence to the frequent healthcare reform mandates, so it’s imperative that someone in my position remains aware of all changes.

With automated eligibility, ClinicSpectrum saved us lot of surprises.

For example, eligibility has become a huge challenge due to healthcare reform. An influx of eligible patients, in addition to changes in health plan coverage for patients that were already insured, has left many practices scrambling. Knowing that a patient’s eligibility has been confirmed in advance allows us to secure payment easily and transparently.

CS: What has been the biggest aid for you in tackling these challenges?

N: By switching to automated eligibility verification, we save an average of $3,700 per year, per physician, and by submitting electronic claims rather than paper claims, we save an average of $23,126 per year, per physician, which helps us to still turn a profit and manage efficient operations.

Outsourcing claims and eligibility work is also a huge help in taking on these challenges. My team is able to oversee operations without having to spend the time to do the paperwork and follow-up as well.

CS: What were you looking for in an outsourcing company?

N: We had a few ideal attributes in mind when we began the search for an outsourcing company. We needed a company that could handle claims, authorizations and eligibility—we didn’t want to work with multiple vendors, so instead sought a one-stop-shop. Making sure the company is accountable and accessible is also a factor. Claims processing is often a 24/7 endeavor and I wanted to work with a company that I knew would take my calls and emails in a timely manner. Lastly, ClinicSpectrum’s hybrid workflow model of both automated and outsourced human follow-up offered something that its competitors didn’t deliver.

ClinicSpectrum offers all of these services and scrubs up the claims so minimal interaction is needed by my administrative staff, which allows us to spend valuable time with patients that would have otherwise been spent on administrative work.

CS: What are some challenges of outsourcing?

N: Our patient’s privacy is of the utmost importance to us and outsourcing can put that at risk. We prioritize that our patient data is safe and secure and that the company we outsource to remains HIPAA compliant.

Nelly Gamboa is administrator for Union County Cardiology Associates in Union, N.J.