How does a billing service help your problems?


Medical billing services have undoubtedly helped solve a lot of problems for medical practices who had to spend countless hours on solving problems related to insurance companies, clearing houses, rejected claims, claims processing and patient data.

With the help of medical billing services, the practices do not need to make a huge effort in securing their payments and ensuring their cash flows stay regular. They can outsource their billing department to experienced medical companies who, for a small fee from their collections, can help the practices file claims, process them, secure payments and then transferring them to the practice account. A similar process for in-house billing could take up to months to process but with the help of this service, physicians and practices can now secure their accounts receivables in just over two weeks.

Billing companies manage your revenue cycle efficiently, thereby giving you better control to you over your financial position and decision making. In addition to this, they also help you resolve any possible conflicts with your claims and in case there are any rejections, the billing companies will ensure that they are resubmitted and you receive payment for that. Since the billing services receive their service charge based on your collections, they will always make sure that your collections are maximized.

Other features of a medical billing service include recovery of your old accounts receivables, patient demographic entry, charge entry, insurance follow up and customized management reports. Without a shadow of doubt, medical billing services solve majority of your problems related to billing while you can sit back and relax and have your staff do something that is more important: patient care. It is about time you outsource your billing service to an experienced vendor. You will surely see a marked improvement in your revenue cycle management.

 

Best EMR checklist


Finding the right EMR for your practice is as important as making the right diagnosis for your patient. If you are feeling a little lost and confused by the options available in the market & the influx of information on vendor websites don’t worry: picking a good solution for your practice is time consuming but not as hard as it seems. This checklist will guide you in making the most suitable EMR choice for your practice. However, please note that this is not a substitute to the initial homework you must do to understand the goals of your practice and how an EMR can help you achieve them.

Established Vendor

EMRs are without doubt a long term investment in your practice. Therefore, the vendor is as important as the product they are selling. Always remember to research the vendor to gauge their stability and longevity in the market – to avoid a situation where you must switch EMRs because your vendor ran out of business. A good starting point for this is independent healthcare review organizations such as KLAS research – providing updated comparative analysis and reports on different vendors.

Similarly, before finalizing an EMR always ask for references specific to your specialty. This way you will have an unbiased view about the system and any customization or usability problems associated with it. It is always wise to know what to expect before you reach the implementation stage and to prepare yourself accordingly.

Multiple Back ups

Computers crash. Papers don’t. One of the chief complaints against EMRs: a system crash completely paralysis the practice workflow causing discomfort to staff and patients alike. To safeguard against this many practices opt for relatively expensive server based systems requiring in house IT staff support rather than the more economical web based option for small practices.  Web based software are not necessarily less reliable than server based systems, provided that you have chosen a quality vendor. In fact, as other studies have indicated web-based systems essentially  mean lower up-front costs, minimal hardware procurement, free upgrades, efficient maintenance and free server repairs. It is also a more cost effective option for small scale practices.  Thus, while looking for an EMR always opt for a product that has multiple backups so that you never lose access to your data no matter what the circumstances.

Remember to ask your EMR consultant about the historic downtime of their product and their disaster preparedness plans.

Customer Support

Usability is an important feature to look for in EMRs. It refers both to the ease of using the software and the quality of support services provided. With the myriad of stakeholders involved in care delivery process, we need to make sure that communication between these stakeholders is smooth. The future of Health IT depends upon the overall integration of healthcare system. We need to think about usability as a perfect connection between technology, use, training and design which enhances our own prospects and potential. We also need to look at technology such as Electronic Medical Records as a usable tool through which we can magnify our potential.

On an average most vendors provide 20 hrs of training on site or off site before a practice goes live. However, care providers or their staff may require additional help after they start using the system. Thus, quality support is a value added service that you should not compromise on while choosing your system.  Cutting cost through outsourcing customer support is a common strategy used by many vendors as it makes perfect business sense for them. However, variation in dialects may serve as a communication hurdle for you. Thus, consider choosing a vendor located in your areas or someone nearby to immediately respond to all your support needs in a timely and effective manner.

Intelligent Billing

Some clients prefer to opt for separate EMR and practice management system. This might seem like a minor thing, but keeping billing integrated with patient information is the best possible way to ensure that you handle billing as efficiently as possible. Thus, an integrated solution that covers clinical, administrative and financial side of the practice is usually the most efficient choice.

These solutions have eligibility verification feature that allows you to verify healthcare coverage, limits and insurance caps of your patient anytime. Most vendors also have the feature to automatically verify eligibility every time an appointment is scheduled reducing the chances of non-payment.

Similarly, the system automatically generates procedure and diagnoses code for billing. In cases where you disagree with the system E&M code calculations, you may use separate values and the system will guide you in supporting documentation so that you do not become a victim of down coding. Thus, reimbursement denials and questions are virtually eliminated streamlining your billing process. You also receive the status of each claim in real time helping you keep track of your payment and to follow up as and when required.

In short, an integrated solution consisting of EMR, practice management and a patient portal beats non integrated (separate) systems hands down.

Data visualization

For a doctor, provider notes may be the make or break feature upon which their buying decision is based. A system with the ability to adapt to your workflow best practices is the best thing that can happen to your practice. A good vendor will try to make the implementation process as painless as possible- which means customizing your existing templates, be intuitive enough to store templates for patients with similar complaints and to allow you to use drop downs, tick boxes or descriptive data entry options depending on your ease.

Some features to look out for that will add value to your practice include:

  • A system that organizes and presents data in the right way can tell important stories about your practice. A personalized dashboard feature for example, gives you a snapshot of information of interest to you. This saves you time.
  • An EMR that shows you a timeline of the patient tagged with their symptoms, medications, lab results, vital signs, and any other pertinent data makes your life easier and ensures that you deliver quality care with minimum medication or diagnosis errors.
  • The report feature integrated with EMRs helps in business analysis and planning. The end result of incorporating such a feature in electronic medical records is to help in examining and reviewing the different aspects of your practice that involve healthcare information documentation for exercising superior healthcare decisions.

On an ending note, we know it’s tempting to spend years choosing just the right vendor. However, do remember that many of your competitors have already joined the EMR bandwagon and are enjoying the benefits of EMR adoption, which include enhanced patient safety, enterprise productivity, provider efficiency and countless government incentives. Be wise, make an informed decision but do not delay!

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EMR – The Untold Story


The last few years have been monumental for the healthcare in the US. With the introduction of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), the government laid down the foundation for a new structure in order to improve healthcare delivery. EMRs have always been on the forefront, taking most of the fire. The government along with numerous healthcare professionals believes in the value of healthcare automation. However, EMRs are merely facilitators while physicians are still responsible for delivering quality healthcare.

Improved Healthcare with EMR

With an estimate of $6600 in healthcare costs being spent on an individual per annum, the effectiveness of the ARRA is instrumental in re-shaping the future of healthcare. “The government cannot afford any hiccups. We are all too far invested in this for it not to work.” comments a healthcare IT executive. “$6600? I don’t see it. Where is it going? You step out right now and look around you tell me if you can spot one individual that had 6600 spent on their health, one individual.” remarked a construction worker from New Jersey, during an independent survey.

The Meaningful Use requirements provide an effective road map for delivering quality healthcare. Its objective is to ensure that physicians learn how to effectively utilize EMRs and improve healthcare delivery. CMS introduced this exercise to help physicians realize what an EMR is capable of and how it adds to their care quality.

Likewise, the Affordable Care Act reforms have resulted in better EMR adoption rates. The government believes that there is at least $300 billion to be saved through standardization of health information technology. However, despite the expected benefits, there is still lot of skepticism surrounding EMRs. Many physicians believe that EMRs in fact do not add to practice productivity, but instead slow them down while increasing their overheads.

In a recent study by Danny McCormick and David Bor of Cambridge Health Alliance and Stephanie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein of CUNY School of Public Health indicated that EMRs may actually increase the frequency of tests ordered by physicians. More than 28,700 of patient visits and nearly 1,200 doctors were surveyed to determine the outcome. The study shows that physicians utilizing EHRs were 5% more likely to order imaging, rather than doctors who did not.

Danny McCormick believed that it was important to point out the contrast of the actual findings with the commonly constructed belief of EMRs decreasing health costs. However, he went on to state that it is attributable to the enhanced interoperability provided by EMRs that doctors can expect to get results faster and can easily view them on their screens.

Dr. David Blumenthal, who served as the national coordinator for Health IT at the Department of Health and Human Services from 2009-2011, pointed out that the study represents order of tests and not costs. He went on to state that the study does not take into account the overall impact of EHRs and accumulative healthcare costs. “The study doesn’t look at the benefits for quality of care at all. It’s possible that the use of tests by some of the doctors could have avoided other costs. This study has no way of assessing the overall implications of the behavior that it’s finding.”

Dr. Farzad Mostashari who is the National Coordinator for Health IT also voiced similar concerns in his reply. He believes that the study showed little evidence and did not consider the impact of EMRs in improving healthcare delivery. He also pointed out that due to the nature of the study it was not designed to answer questions about cost and quality. “Many other variables that could affect physician behavior could not be examined in this study, including having a sicker patient population, level of physician training, approach to defensive medicine, and, importantly, financial arrangements.”

The EMR is a technology that compels change and as long as it is resisted, its potential will remain muted.

 

EMR – The Great Expectations


The EMR technology has come a long way since its inception. Starting as a simple tool for recording information, EMRs today assist physicians through decision support systems. EMRs are increasingly becoming an integral component of the healthcare system in the US. The adoption rates have doubled during 2008-2011. However, this increase is still short of the expectations of industry experts.

As the world of technology evolves around us, expectations from an EMR continue to grow. “Most physicians today want a system that is easy to use and makes documentation quick.” says a health IT executive. “Physicians never liked documentation, even when it was on paper. But now with EMRs, they expect that computers will do most of the job as they interact with patients.” quoted another.

Technology makes our lives more convenient and EMR serves this purpose for the healthcare community by expediting clinical workflows and seamless exchange of information. Research has shown that physicians have been able to save up to 30 minutes per day with EMR for documentation. However, some physicians insist that EMRs should offer even greater value.

According to a recent study by the HSC, the expectations of the healthcare policy makers on improved coordination of patient care through EMR and the actual experiences of clinicians are quite different. The study available at the Journal of General Internal Medicine indicates that EMR interoperability is not well developed for interaction between physicians across different practices.

Physicians believe that it would be difficult to meet the proposed meaningful use stage 2 objectives with the current capabilities of their EMR solutions. ONC is also planning to release new certification criteria once the final rule is out. Established EMR vendors are already working on their interoperability extensively to comply with the proposed regulations and remain competitive.

EMR solutions will continue to evolve over time. However until a time that an EMR solution satisfies the requirements of each and every physician, is it really wise for physicians to dismiss the advantages of an EMR solution? EMRs have been proven to optimize practice workflow and reduce overheads but physicians and other end users will have to meet their respective EMR systems halfway to reap the true benefits of EMR technology.