In any organization, the finance department is of prime importance as it involves revenues. However, in this race of survival of the fittest, leading organizations are so busy in their core business concerns that they are not left with any time to look after their revenue cycle. In today’s world, as the service industry is growing more than any other industry, companies are more interested in satisfying their customers. However, it needs to be realized that if revenues are not managed properly, businesses won’t be having enough funds to continue their operations at full capacity. Same is the scenario in the health industry where physicians are fully occupied with their routine work that it becomes extremely difficult to maintain revenue cycle in a regular manner.
Therefore, in order to channelize the revenue cycle, care providers have started outsourcing their Medical Billing Service to external billing specialist companies. Revenue cycle management is an intricate process that involves the verification of insurance eligibility, medical coding, Medical Billing, claims denial management, and ensuring timely inflows. In order to gain most from it, specialists are required to execute this complex process. The basic aim of efficient revenue cycle management is to waste as little time as possible and maximize practice revenues.
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is turning out to be a leading management fashion. Of course, the increasing popularity of outsourcing Medical Billing is linked to innumerable advantages it holds. By outsourcing billing to an external partner, healthcare providers enjoy streamlined revenue cycle, specialist services, low costs, reduced hassle, and faster revenue collection. In addition to this, as compared to in-house billing, there are low infrastructure costs, employee costs and lesser overheads.
Due to the aforementioned advantages, the trend of outsourcing Medical Billing Service is expected to increase in the future. However, before outsourcing such an important department, healthcare providers must check the skills and knowledge of the employees of that billing company.
While providers and patients are considered to be the major beneficiaries of the health IT applications such as Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and patient portal, today, even the product vendors are reaping extravagant profits through them. Although the existence of more than 700 vendors in the market has made the industry quite competitive, not every vendors enjoys the same position as the established vendors do. This case is quite evident when it comes to patient portals, especially.
Many health IT consultants think that EMRs were sufficient to help vendors sustain the existing market share, the ever increasing pressure of competition requires new developments. Although patient engagement and secure patient-physician interaction the major reason behind introducing patient portals, vendors also believe that this could help them attract more clients and make a mark in the market. Interestingly, only a few established vendors are making patient portals and various other applications. This is what gives them an edge over a lot of competitors.
“To keep themselves in the market, vendors should always keep on experimenting with their product and also come up with new ideas that would help them sustain the competition. With such an intense competition, vendors should not risk their position by merely relying on their conventional products”, says a North Dakota based health IT consultant.
One cannot even disagree that patient portals have come a long way from merely being a platform facilitate communication. Established vendors have incorporated various features that allow patients to not only interact with their physicians whenever needed but also perform several administrative tasks without having to visit the physician in person. This means reduced costs associated with making redundant telephonic calls and spending money on fares.
Considering that time is of essence, the finest patient portals allow patients to schedule their appointments online and keep a follow up by making a few clicks. Patients are at complete liberty to access their health records online and even download them if needed. Imagine the ease of staying connected within the care continuum through a simple internet connection. Where patients and physicians are making the most of patient portals, the increasing rate of implementation is definitely helping vendors make profits too.
Patient portal is a web based application which allows patients to communicate and interact with their physicians and healthcare providers. Due to the benefits of this technology, it’s gaining more popularity amongst patients nationwide by the day. Numerous redundancies in the healthcare industry are bypassed by employing patient portals. Adopting this technology enables you to enhance your practice efficiency as it allows secure access for patients to their health information from anywhere at any time. As a result of this capability employees at any practice can save a significant amount of time spent on a patient’s record.
Forms which otherwise have to be filled out manually in the doctor’s office requiring the physical presence of the patient may now be done electronically through a patient portal. Some of the benefits to the patients via this technology are listed below.
Educational Content – Clinicians may address their patients on various health related concerns which would have a more direct and personal impact and educate them.
Online Messaging – Patients have a quicker and easier approach for getting in touch with their physicians via a patient portal. Instead of reaching them physically or over the phone at odd hours, a patient can simply leave a message for their doctor and get a response very quickly.
Schedule Online – Patients can now schedule appointments online through their patient portal which is much simpler than the conventional method of scheduling an appointment. Patients can view the available time slots of their physicians and may schedule a time which is convenient for them.
View Lab Results – Lab results may be easily viewed online in the software eliminating all the hassles otherwise.
Information Updates – Patients may update any demographic changes in their records as well as any changes in their insurance through the portal.
It’s very easy to see the appeal in such a platform for patients; moreover, it is practical for the healthcare provider as well. Patient Portals apart from helping practices complying with meaningful use policies are very advantageous for clinicians and patients alike. The bottom line which translates through this innovative solution is that it’s saving time and money for both patients and doctors.
No doubt the inclusion of information technology in the healthcare industry brought the game changing Electronic Medical Records (EMR) technology, along with secure sharing and exchange of health information across various platforms, more commonly known as health information exchange (HIE). It was always believed that the purpose of providing quality and affordable care along with improving the conditions of the US healthcare system could be significantly aided by incorporating HIE within the EMR continuum. One can imagine the ease with which quality healthcare could be provided if important health information can be transferred across various platforms with relevant people.
While health IT consultants and regulatory bodies could give a long list of advantages that EMRs and HIE could bring to the healthcare industry, the question remains is the adoption rate as high as expected? According to recent research, approximately 71% of the hospitals in US are planning to implement EMR solutions that comply with health information exchange. As the technology keeps on improving, soon the implementation rates are likely to touch 100%.
“Information technology is one of the best things that could happen to the healthcare industry. The way IT has revolutionized healthcare, it could be easily said that in the coming years EMRs and other health IT applications are likely to be seen in almost every practice. I believe, after stethoscopes physicians would also treat EMR to be essential”, says a New Hampshire based health IT consultant.
The importance of HIE could also be comprehended by looking at the meaningful use stage 2 requirements. The objectives in stage 2 encourage physicians not only to use EMR but also to ensure that their solution allows for information exchange. This is one of the very reasons why regulatory bodies have been working on creating standards for HIE implementation. It is believed that a portfolio of standardized guidelines would allow physicians to comprehend the requirements and understand the implementation procedures in a much more efficient manner.
Realizing the requirements and keeping the concerns of physicians in mind, even established EMR vendors are creating solutions that ensure HIE. As the introduction of cloud EMR helped them capture the market share, incorporating HIE would further enhance their chances of attracting more potential clients.
History has showed us that businesses that utilize technology end up accumulating faster growth and sustainability, when compared with those that remain loyal to the conventional ways of doing business. Technology holds the key to transform processes in almost every industry, while saving time and hassle for those that utilize it.
Technology has lent a helping hand to entrepreneurs and businesses with scarce resources to effectively measure growth and monitor performance. Like many before it, the healthcare industry experts have also noticed the potential benefits from the utilization of healthcare technology or health IT, with the government providing financial incentives to providers with paperless practices. With the Obama administration focusing on the development and adoption of Electronic Medical Records, the health IT industry has seen a surge in investment opportunities. Having seen the numerous benefits of EMR and Practice Management solutions such as the reduction of cost and hassle along with faster processing, a vast majority of providers is convinced that these IT solutions have brought their practices into the 21st century.
Although the initial adoption rates were sluggish, recent months have shown a significant improvement in the adoption rates across the nation. Many believe that this is a direct response to the development of Patient Portals. Although still in their infancy, these portals are designed to save time for practice staff and patients when requesting prescription refills, appointments, accessing labs, reviewing clinical documentation or monitoring health through built-in alerts. The recent surge in the development of Cloud based systems has meant that the availability of healthcare records is now more mobile than ever before.
The Patient Portal provides a real-time connection between physicians and their patients at all times, which ensures that physicians can remotely answer patient enquiries immediately. This introduction has meant that patients do not always have to be physically present in the doctor’s office to have them refill their prescription or request appointments – making the entire process more efficient. This also means that a doctor’s office phone can now ring a lot less than it used to because patients do not need to call every time they need to request an appointment. The fact that these Portals allow patients to review their health records online, set personal health goals, get refills, schedule appointments, obtain test results and share their health information with other physicians ensures better health maintenance and is inevitably a bonus for physicians and patients alike.
“This is probably one of the best things to happen in the world of health IT. Physicians have always looked for a better way to remain connected with their patients and Patient Portals have provided just that. One can only imagine what the Patient Portals of the future will be like”, says a health IT expert.
From the patient’s perspective, the overall improvement in their experience because of these portals has given them a valid reason to differentiate when choosing their healthcare provider.
Even since the introduction of EMR the health IT industry has been making considerable changes to the technology. With each passing day, we witness a new feature or a systematic change made within EMR applications, such as the introduction of Cloud EMRs. One can identify a plethora of advantages that cloud EMRs have brought to the healthcare system. No doubt, EMR vendors have taken and are still taking the increasing competition seriously. It did not take them much time to realize that they key to capture market share is to meet the demands of healthcare professionals.
Although healthcare providers have their own concerns related to the usability of the EMR solution, the government’s meaningful use requirement did not back out from increasing the physicians’ demands either. It is the issue of EMR interoperability that I am talking about. Being part of the health IT industry, today, almost everyone is aware of the significance that interoperability has attached to it. Physicians who have been implementing EMRs for a long time now, have started taking the matter of EMR interoperability seriously. After all, interoperability is considered to change the dynamics of the healthcare industry. Imagine the ease with which health information would be easily exchanged with healthcare providers both within and outside single premises. Definitely, the extent of care coordination is likely to augment.
“Although vendors are responsible for keeping their EMRs updated, physicians should not sit back and risk their meaningful use financial incentive funds. It is high time when physicians start making the vendors realize the importance of meeting their demands and requirements. And this applies to both the existing and potential clients. I am sure vendors would not want to take the matter easily as well”, says a New Jersey based health IT consultant.
While is it not absurd to believe that it is the vendor’s responsibility to ensure that their product accommodates interoperability, physicians and healthcare institutions should not sit back without raising their mounting concern in front of the vendors. The rationale is simple; where complying with the meaningful use objectives would help physicians get their hands on thousands of dollars, straying away would not only lead to losing the incentive funds but also result in financial penalties – coming in terms of reduced reimbursements.
As covered in a leading health IT related magazine, emphasizing on the importance of EMR interoperability, Farzad Mostashari, MD of the ONC, said that physicians should report to the ONC if their vendors fail to comply with the interoperability issues, and their issue would be paid due importance.
After introducing cloud EMR technology, vendors now try to innovate the solution with every passing day. Where the issue of EMR interoperability is of vital importance for physicians, it is surely an attention paying issue for EMR vendors too.
One of the most interesting things about health IT applications, especially Electronic Medical Records (EMR) is that ever since its inception there seems to be an upward trend in the product demand. Overtime healthcare providers have realized the potential advantages that EMR technology has provided and are likely to provide to the healthcare industry. Every now and then you would come across physicians discussing specialty focused EMRs, free EMR, and especially certified EMR.
More interestingly, given this increasing popularity of the certified EMRs, the product vendors have started experiencing cut throat competition. No wonder why over the past few years, health IT has been considered to be one of the most rapidly growing industry across the US. The availability of more than 700 vendors, intensively trying to capture the market share, is clear support for the aforementioned statement. While there are thousands of reasons behind the increasing competition, the government’s financial incentive program could be attributed as one of the vital ones.
Being part of the health IT industry, we are all aware that the government requires meaningful use of certified EMR on part of physicians to consider them eligible for the program. No doubt, this is one of the essential criteria to qualify for the incentive funds. Realizing that certification was becoming a crucial requirement for physicians, be it the one who charged a monthly subscription fee for its EMR or provided free EMR, the vendors made sure that their software fulfilled the certification criterion. The logic was simple; keeping pace with the industry requirements would help them influence the client’s choice.
“Be it any industry, competition amongst the vendors can never end. In fact, new regulations and opportunities are likely to increase the existing competition. This is what is happening in the EMR industry. While the existing renowned vendors are trying their best to retain their clientele and attract more potential clients, novice vendors are enthusiastically trying to keep up with the pace”, says a San Francisco based health IT consultant.
It would not be absurd to say that besides helping physicians with clinical procedures, EMRs are also becoming a marketing tool for the vendors. The reason is, if the EMR conforms to a physician’s requirements, even if it’s not a free EMR, the physician is likely to refer it to another colleague – eventually creating a chain of references. Of course, at the end of the day, it is the vendors whose product is being promoted. However, such a situation increases the burden on the vendor to maintain the reputation in the market.