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Study: Doctors Favor Integrated EMR, Practice Management System

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While large institutions may not be jumping onto cloud-based technologies — or admitting it, in any event — the majority of doctors in a new Black Book survey are gung-ho on cloud solutions to their revenue cycle management dilemmas, according to a new piece in Healthcare IT News.

A new Black Book study, “Top Physician Practice Management & Revenue Cycle Management: Ambulatory EHR Vendors,” surveyed more than 8,000 CFOs, CIOs, administrators and support staff for hospitals and medical practices.

The research has concluded that 87 percent of all medical practices agree that their billing and collections systems need to be upgraded, HIN reports. And the majority of those physicians are in favor of moving to an integrated practice management, EMR and medical software product, Black Book concluded.

According to Black Book rankings, the revenue cycle management software and services industry just crossed the $12 billion mark, pushed up by reimbursement and payment reforms, accountable care trends, ICD-10 and declining revenues.

Forty-two percent of doctors surveyed said that they’re thinking about upgrading their RCM software within the next six to 12 months. And 92 percent of those seeking an RCM practice management upgrade are only planning to consider an app that includes an EMR, Healthcare IT News said.

It’s no coincidence that  doctors are trading up on financial tools. Doctors are playing catch-up financially in a big way, with 72 percent of  practices reporting that they anticipate declining to negative profitability in 2014 due to inefficient billing and records technology as well as diminishing reimbursements. (On the other hand, it’s not clear why doctors aren’t still seeking best-of-breed on both the EMR and PM side.)

While selecting an integrated PM/EMR system may work well for practices, it’s going to impose problems of its own, including but not limited to finding a system in which both sides are a tight fit with practice needs. It will be interesting to see whether doctors actually follow through with their PM/EMR buying plans once they dig in deep and really study their options.

September 13, 2013 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Improving Financial Performance By Accelerating Cash Flow

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In IT circles, revenue cycle management isn’t the sexiest assignment, but collecting revenue is the lifeblood of your hospital nonetheless. In this e-book, Relay Health offers several suggestions for speeding up cash flow by being proactive about when and where cash is collected.

Right now, as the book notes, hospitals rely on collecting co-pays at the time of service, while determining and collecting the balance post-service. However, the likelihood of patients paying goes down after they leave the hospital.

To address collections pre-service, Relay Health suggests hospitals use technology to screen patients for eligibility for benefits and their propensity to pay bills, verify their personal data and identity information to avoid fraud and speed the claims process, and screen them for charity assistance.

There’s also several steps the e-book recommends which can increase the propensity of patients to pay post-discharge, including leveraging patient data to customize statements with relevant messages; using visually-appealing statement formats; offering online bill  payment and management; and integrating an estimation/verification tool to help focus the discussion of patient responsibility.

Another important step  hospitals can take is to evaluate their claims management processes and shift effort to areas where the greatest impact can be felt, the book suggests.  As of the first half of 2012,  the average service-to-payment velocity industry wide was 45.3 days from patient discharge to resolution. This can be helped by finding process delays in key areas of claims performance, including service to release of claim, service to submission of claim, submit to Transmit and Transmit to Payment, Relay Health suggests.

Still another way in which hospitals can improve their revenue cycle management performance is to engage in comparative analytics, benchmarking their financial performance to improve decision-making.  The e-book notes that while traditional benchmarking presents several issues — not the least of which being that comparing performance indicators between organizations may be an “apples to oranges” comparison — benchmarking using comparative analytics avoids these issues.

Ultimately, the e-book notes, healthcare providers will transition from a focus on internal data repositories for performance information to a more outward-facing, patient-centric model integrating data from claims, EMRs, PHRs, analytics technologies, CRM systems and health insurance exchanges. In the mean time,  it suggests, it’s definitely worth the effort to fine-tune RCM systems using the data you have.

July 24, 2013 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Where is the Value in Health IT?

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What a powerful question that I think hasn’t got enough attention. Everyone seems to be so enamored with EHR thanks to the $36 billion in EHR incentive money. I seem to not be an exception to that rule as well. Although, at least I was in love with EHR well before the government started spending money on it.

While so many are distracted by the government money I think it’s worth asking the question of where the value is in healthcare IT.

Practice Management software has a ton of billing benefits. Is there a practice out there that doesn’t use some sort of practice management software? I don’t know of any.

Health Information Exchange (HIE) has a ton of value for reducing duplicate tests. Certainly we have challenges actually implementing an HIE, but the value in reducing healthcare costs and improving patient care seems quite clear. Having the best information about someone clearly leads to better healthcare.

Data Warehouse and Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) has tremendous value. RCM is not really sexy, but after attending a conference like ANI you can see how much money is on the table if you deal with revenue integrity. I add data warehouse in this category since they’re often very closely tied together.

Since this is an EHR site, where then does EHR fit into all this? What are the really transparent benefit of using an EHR. I know there are a whole list of EHR benefits. However, I think it is a challenge for many doctors to see how all of those benefits add up. EHR adoption would be much higher if there was one big hair benefit to EHR adoption. Unfortunately, I don’t yet think there’s one EHR benefit that’s yet reached that level of impact. I hope one day it will. Not that it matters right now anyway. Most practices wouldn’t see the benefit between the EHR incentive weeds.

August 10, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 14 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

The Real Money is in the ACO, Not Meaningful Use

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John Moore from Chilmark Research offers this great insight for those of us in the healthcare IT and EHR industry:

The MU requirements have become little more than a “spec-sheet” for vendors, consultants and IT shops and departments. These requirements have nothing to do with innovation and have little to do with the dramatic changes that will occur in this industry in the next decade. Quoting that oft-used phrase, “follow the money” one can quickly see that the billions in funding for incentivizing providers to adopt EHRs under the HITECH Act is relative chump change to the dramatic fortunes that may be won or lost under the new value-based payment models that are proliferating throughout the industry – payment models that commonly fall under the rubric of ACO or PCMH. In each of these models, EHRs are important to a degree, they are part of the basic infrastructure. But it is what one does with the data that matters (collect, communicate, collaborate, synthesize, analyze, measure and improve). Therefore, if you want to see innovation look beyond today and the tactical push to effectively adopt and meaningfully use EHRs and towards the future of how that data will be used to drive quality improvements, better outcomes and lowering risk exposure.

As the title says, I translate this to mean: The Real Money is in the ACO (Accountable Care Organizations), Not Meaningful Use

Of course, his description of the current healthcare IT landscape also reminds me of two posts I did previously: EHR is the Database of Healthcare and Is Revenue Cycle Management Sexy?

Both of those posts highlight many of the the observations that John Moore makes. First, if the EHR is nothing more than a repository of data, then it has value (Oracle did pretty well as a database) but it’s limited. Those who can take the data stored in EHR and other healthcare data sources and do something amazing with it are going to be the big winners in healthcare IT. Could an EHR vendor be the one to do this? Possibly, but looking at other industries, I think this is unlikely. That’s why I describe EHR’s similar to databases.

The answer to the question posed in the second post linked above is “Yes, if you like money.” Sure, healthcare isn’t all about money, but money can be a tremendous driving force for doing good as well. It turns out that dealing with revenue cycle problems provides tremendous value to a clinic. However, many people for some reason look past it since they think it’s not “sexy.”

The ACO model that is fast approaching is also going to make this even more important. It’s still too early to describe exactly how it’s all going to play out, but many who don’t have a handle on the business side of their practice are going to miss out.

I’ve heard some describe meaningful use as a high bar to achieve. I disagree. Meaningful use is prescriptive and simple for EHR software to achieve. Sure, it takes some time and effort, but any one with time and effort can achieve it. I don’t think we’ll be able to say the same for ACOs. That’s why the value of the ACO is going to be much higher than meaningful use. It’s the traditional higher risk leads to higher reward.

May 24, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 14 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

ACO Model Risks and Rewards

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I haven’t heard a single person say that the ACO (Accountable Care Organization) model is not here to stay. In fact, everyone that I’ve talked to is completely confident that healthcare is heading down the tracks of some sort of quality care model and away from our current fee for service model. The only real question is what form these ACOs are going to take.

With this as background, let’s consider something about ACOs that I haven’t really heard many (if any) people talking about: the risks and reward profiles of being an ACO (or part of an ACO).

I’ll save the detailed list of risks and rewards for a future post, but instead want to highlight how the risks and rewards of an ACO are quite different from our current fee for service model. In our current model, when you provide a service to a patient you have a pretty good idea of what the reward for that service is going to be. Sure, there are intricacies of insurance billing, but for the most part you know what you’re going to be paid for the services you rendered. There’s not very much risk associated with providing that service since the fee for that service is known. We could argue about whether the reward is worth it or not, but in the current model the reward is pretty solidly defined. You don’t get paid more for doing a better knee surgery than someone else. The payment is the same.


The opposite turns out to be the case in a true ACO world. Providers that are caring for a community of people will be rewarded based on the quality of care that they provide that community (at least that’s the idea). That means that providers and ACOs are taking on the risk associated with the care they provide. Bad care = less reimbursement. Better care = more reimbursement. While the associated risk is higher for providers under an ACO, so are the rewards. A provider that provides better care for their community has the possibility of making more money for the care they provided.

As an entrepreneur I must admit that the idea of getting paid more for doing something better than someone else is beautiful. This is even more true in healthcare where I love the idea of a doctor getting paid to really improve my health as opposed to getting paid for services that I may or may not need. Although, I can understand how many doctors might not feel the same way I do. Many doctors aren’t entrepreneurs. They just love medicine and patients. What are these types of doctors to do with this new and evolving ACO model for reimbursement?

I think there is a clear option for doctors that just want to practice medicine without the risk or rewards associated with the ACO model. The way they’ll get around this is likely working for someone else. There’s little doubt that there will be many organizations happy to take on the risk and rewards of the ACO model while paying a physician a salary for their work.

One thing seems clear to me: Providers take on a greater portion of risk in an ACO, but they also have the opportunity to take home a significantly higher net reimbursement.

February 29, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 14 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Real-Time Analytics and Dashboards for Streamlining Revenue Cycle Automation

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Last month CareCloud announced a new real-time analytics dashboard to help doctor streamline revenue cycle automation. The core of their product is what they call CareCloud Analytics. As I think about the announcement, I wondered if it was really a big deal or not and why we hadn’t seen more of this in the various practice management systems and EHR software on the market today.

Is Data Analytics important in Healthcare?
I think this type of information is a big deal. Information is power and this is never more true than in healthcare. The press release does a great job of describing how real-time analytics and dashboards provide information which provides transparency and accountability to a practice. One quote from the article says, “The practice can now manage the productivity of the office staff, monitor in real time the productivity of billers, and gain transparency into the business side of operations to help form better decisions through data, instead of intuition.”

I’m a huge fan of analytics in my business. I call myself a stats addict. I have 2-3 stats programs running on my websites at all times. I get stats from my ad server, from Google’s ad server, and from every other stats engine I can find that has reliable data. Much of my success with my websites is because of my passion for knowing what’s happening with my websites. To me, Data is power! The same can be said for a practice. Data is the power to make important decisions that are needed for the success of your practice.

Why don’t more EHR and PMS vendors provide these analytics?
I’m sure there are a number of reasons why we don’t see real time analytics happening very often in the small practices. Hospitals are a bit different. There are whole companies devoted to just providing these types of services to hospitals that can pay for a full scale data warehouse environment to provide this type of data. A hospital that doesn’t do this type of data mining is missing out as well, but they have a number of options. Although, I don’t think many hospital HIS vendors offer this info by default.

The key reason I think real-time analytics and customizable dashboards are missing in the small practice environment has to do with doctors demand (or lack thereof) for such a feature. This will surprise some, but most will agree that the majority of doctors don’t care much for the business side of the practice. Sure, they care that the business side of the practice effects how much money they take home at the end of the day, but a large portion of doctors would love their lives a lot more if they didn’t have anything to do with the business of a practice. Yes, I know there are exceptions to this, but most doctors want to practice medicine not business.

With this as background, if you ask most doctors what they want from their EHR and Practice Management software, they’ll start to list off all of the clinical and workflow needs that they have. Very few of them will even venture into the business requests like real time analytics. Plus, even if they did venture into the business side of things, would they know how to request such a feature?

EHR and Practice Management Vendors have to show them why it matters to have these real time analytics. It reminds me of the famous quote attributed to Henry Ford. “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This can often be taken too far, but I think it applies well when it comes to things like real-time analytics of a practice.

One other reason that a number of companies are missing the analytics and its relationship with revenue cycle management is that they’re too focused on EHR. Many just consider the PMS a standard thing that everyone has already and that there’s no room to innovate. Last I checked meaningful use didn’t have any practice management elements and that’s taken up at least one development cycle for most companies. Too many doctors later dismay, the EHR selection process often puts the practice management side of the puzzle on the backseat. This is a mistake that many practices are paying for today.

As one PR rep for a major EHR company said to me, “Revenue Cycle Management isn’t sexy.” Although, she said this directly after telling me how beneficial it was to their bottom line.

January 25, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 14 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.