When my clients and I review their accounts receivable agings sometimes we see areas of concern. At that point we tend to look at the processes and systems in place that may need to be improved, replaced, or even outsourced. The objection that typically comes up is the cost of those services that are need to make the improvements, but not having those new services could even cost the practice more.
How much can you afford to spend to upgrade your insurance verification and collection systems? Before you answer that, consider this: A 2011 study from Cornell University found that U.S. medical practices spend an average of $82,975 a year just dealing with insurance companies and the government, and that the average U.S. doctor spends 3.4 hours a week interacting with health plans.1 Then note that this research was conducted before a raft of new regulations started taking effect that may make these already complicated interactions even more labor-intensive.
Streamlining this critical but cumbersome piece of your business is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity. Thankfully, a new generation of practice management systems is now available that will not only make the process more efficient, but will also help improve accuracy and speed up insurance payments, boosting your cash flow. Here are four tips to help you get started.
- Understand what you are trying to achieve: Where is your current billing system breaking down? Are you or your assistants spending too much time chasing pre-approvals and insurance verifications? Look for a system with the ability to quickly verify patients’ benefits in order to reduce the risk of fraud and uncollected debts. Are errors slowing your billing process and adding to your write-offs? Certain billing systems offer reporting tools that allow you to access your patient account information with the click of a mouse so you can easily review information and past transactions. It’s important to identify similar key pain points within your practice so that you can prioritize your objectives and incorporate a system that matches your specific needs.
- Do your research: There are many insurance verification and collection systems available, so you want to make sure the technology you are considering will work seamlessly with your existing office management systems. Talk to other professionals with similar practices who have gone through this process so you can learn from their mistakes and benefit from their experiences.
- Create a work plan: Implementing any new system will change your workflow. Installation and training take time, and there will probably be an adjustment period as you transfer your office onto the new platform. Look for a system that offers a user-friendly interface and doesn’t require specialized coding to operate. The more intuitive a program is, the quicker you and your staff will become accustomed to using it. Then create a timeline that lays out all of the tasks that need to be accomplished, identifies who will be responsible for each job and sets target completion dates.
- Consider outsourcing: If you don’t have the time or expertise to oversee this process yourself, work with a company that can provide a dedicated specialist to analyze your needs, implement the solution, train your staff and make sure that all of your programs are up and running smoothly.
If you need help with making a decision that is financially impactful to your practice…. just ask me for assistance!
By Jeff Holt, CMPE, VP, Senior Healthcare Business Banker with PNC Bank
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Jeff Holt is a Senior Healthcare Business Banker and V.P. with PNC Bank’s Healthcare Business Banking and is a Certified Medical Practice Executive. He can be reached at (352) 385-3800 or Jeffrey.Holt@pnc.com.