EHR and Health IT Consulting
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EHR and Health IT Consulting
Technical Doctor's insights and information collated from various sources on EHR selection, EHR implementation, EMR relevance for providers and decision makers
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Three Ways Front-Office Staff Can Improve Collections

Three Ways Front-Office Staff Can Improve Collections | EHR and Health IT Consulting |

Cash flow at medical practices can be especially slow in the first and second quarters of the year as many patients with consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) have not yet met their deductibles.

The cash flow problem is worsening as CDHPs become more popular. According to a National Business Group on Health survey, more than half (57 percent) of employers are implementing or expanding CDHPs. This leaves many patients 100 percent responsible for their healthcare costs until they meet that deductible.

If you’re one of the independent practices — especially one with fewer than 10 staff members — dealing with this issue, here are three ways your front-office staff can help you navigate this growing problem:

1. They can focus on detailed eligibility verification. Train your staff to always confirm if a patient has coverage and if he has a copay or deductible. At a minimum, understand if the deductible has been met, but try to obtain a real-time deductible balance. Your staff should also understand benefit details tied to the services you offer and confirm if you are considered in-network for the patient. The more information on hand, the more you can prepare the patient for what his responsibility may be.

 2. They can be prepared to collect at time of service. Your front-office staff is the most important resource in the process of collecting payments up front and collecting on outstanding bills. With benefits and deductible information in hand before a patient walks in the door, your staff is already in a better position for the conversation. And it’s extremely important to establish the systems to manage and collect money because once a patient walks out the door, collection rates drop to 50 percent to 70 percent for small-dollar payments from insured patients, and to only 10 percent from self-pay patients. Make the money conversation part of your practice’s DNA and you will change your business.

3. They can offer a variety of payment options. When McKinsey surveyed consumers to ask why they would opt not to pay a medical bill, respondents cited a lack of options for payment plans, poor timing of bills, and difficulties coping with confusing statements or policies as barriers. The shift to a retail-centric approach in healthcare is here. Smartphones have built-in one-touch payment capabilities and major retail chains are working healthcare into their daily store offerings. Patients want to know what they owe up front and have multiple options to pay, especially when their responsibility is increasing. Make it easy for your patients. Accept credit or debit cards. Allow payments through mobile devices, cards on file, patient portals, monthly billing plans, or payment by check. Think of your front desk as a point of sale terminal and help your staff shift their mindset to work with patients to collect those funds any way a patient will pay.

Bonus Tip: All of these tips can be leveraged without investing in much more than staff time. Your cash flow should go up and your bad debt should decrease to help reduce your revenue cycle.

I encourage you to investigate tools and software solutions that can help your staff be even more efficient and effective with these steps. There are tools that focus on streamlining the eligibility verification process and that can provide additional insurance details in one place.

Check your EHR system for possible add-ons or leverage other Web-based solutions that focus on not only eligibility but also provide additional features for your front desk such as payment or scheduling. Look for a tool that streamlines work flow and gives you a point-of-sale system that meets your patients’ retail expectations. This can greatly reduce the expenditure on staff time and ultimately create a seamless front-desk experience.

With this continued growth in patient responsibility, practices have to adapt their systems and expect that a larger portion of their income is coming directly from the patient.

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This is what patient safety means to me

What does patient safety mean to you?

I believe patients get the safest care when

  1. The patient is known as an individual.
  2. The health care team gives the patient their undivided attention.
  3. The team is well-supported with efficient workflows and organized, easily accessible information.
  4. The health professionals find joy in their work.

By being “known” I mean, that the nurses and physicians know the patient as a real person, what their life is like, who are their supports, what are their goals. Inherent in being “known” is continuity — the same medical assistants, nurses and physicians work with the patient at each visit and between visits. Relationship-centered care.

By “undivided attention” I mean that the physicians and other providers can listen intently to the patient and think deeply, without being distracted by multi-tasking, and without being diverted by clerical tasks such as data gathering and data entry.

By “organized, accessible information” I mean an EHR that reduces the cognitive workload of information management; checklists that make it easy to do the right thing; and the supportive use of clinical metrics to empower frontline workers to improve care.

I learned this guiding principles from Borgess Health in Michigan: “We will know who you are and we will be ready for you.” This is a powerful promise to patients; delivering on this promise requires knowing the patient, providing undivided attention, and being well-supported by efficient workflows.

And finally, and most importantly,  I believe the best way to achieve a safe and satisfying experience for patients is to create an environment that is safe and satisfying for the workers, an environment that nurtures the intrinsic professionalism of the physicians and other staff — where the health care team can experience joy in practice. In sum, I believe that achieving the triple aim is dependent on the quadruple aim; that care of the patient requires care of the providers.

I believe that most health professionals come to work each day to serve their patients, to make a difference in their patients’ lives. If the environment helps people meet these professional goals, by making information easily accessible, by limiting the distracting burdens of regulatory compliance, by fostering relationships, then I believe the members of the health care team will give the patients their all, and the results will be safer, more satisfying care.

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