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ICD-10 Flight Delayed, But Keep Your Bags Packed – Breakaway Thinking

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The following is a guest blog post by Jennifer Bergeron, Learning and Development Manager at The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Jennifer_web

If you’ve ever traveled to a country that doesn’t speak your native tongue, you can appreciate the importance of basic communication. If you learn a second language to the degree that you’re adding nuance and colloquialisms, you’ve experienced how much easier it is to explain a point or to get answers you need. What if you’re expected to actually move to that foreign country under a strict timeline? The pressure is on to get up to speed. The same can be said for learning the detailed coding language of ICD-10.

The healthcare industry has been preparing in earnest to move from ICD-9 coding to the latest version of the international classification of diseases. People have been training, testing and updating information systems, essentially packing their bags to comply with the federal mandate to implement ICD-10 this October — but the trip was postponed. On April 1, President Barrack Obama signed into law a bill that includes an extension for converting to ICD-10 until at least Oct. 1, 2015. What does this mean for your ICD-10 travel plans?

Despite the unexpected delay, you’ll be living in ICD-10 country before you know it. With at least another year until the deadline, the timing is just right to start packing and hitting the books to learn the new codes and to prepare your systems. For those who have a head start, your time and focus has not gone to waste, so don’t throw your suitcases back into the closet. The planning, education and money involved in preparation for the ICD-10 transition doesn’t dissolve with the delay – you’ve collected valuable tools that will be put to use.

Although many people, including myself, are disappointed in the change, we need to continue making progress toward the conversion; learning and using ICD-10 will enable the United States to have more accurate, current and appropriate medical conversations with the rest of the world. Considering that it is almost four decades old, there is only so much communication that ICD-9 can handle; some categories are actually full as the number of new diagnoses continues to grow. ICD-9 uses three to five numeric characters for diagnosis coding, while ICD-10 uses three to seven alphanumeric characters. ICD-10 classifications will provide more specific information about medical conditions and procedures, allowing more depth and accuracy to conversations about a patient’s diagnosis and care.

Making the jump to ICD-10 fluency will be beneficial, albeit challenging. In order to study, understand and use ICD-10, healthcare organizations need to establish a learning system for their teams. The Breakaway Group, A Xerox Company, provides training for caregivers and coders that eases learning challenges, such as the expanded clinical documentation and new code set for ICD-10. Simply put, there are people can help with your entire ICD-10 travel itinerary, from creating a checklist of needs to planning a successful route.

ICD-10 is the international standard, so the journey from ICD-9 codes to ICD-10 codes will happen. Do not throw away your ICD-10 coding manuals and education materials just yet. All of these items will come in handy to reach the final destination: ICD-10.

Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts.

April 16, 2014 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.

Hospital Intern Time, Why ICD10?, and EHR Satisfaction Pre-MU

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Everyone that reads this immediately thinks that this is a terrible thing. It seems ghastly that a doctor that’s paid to treat patients would spend so much time with an EMR vs with patients. I agree with everyone that are highest paid resource should be using as much time as possible with and treating patients. However, this study would have a lot more meaning if it was paired with a previous study that showed how much time a hospital intern spent in a paper chart. Maybe they spent 400% more time with a paper chart than direct patient contact. Then, this stat would come off looking very different. You have to always remember that you have to take into account the previous status quo.


This article and the discussion around ICD-10 was phenomenal. Passionate viewpoints on each side. It fleshed out both sides of the arguments for me really well. Too bad no one will care too much for a while.


Oh…the good old days. When everyone love EHR, because they chose to do it and so they made the most of their choice. Ok, I’m being a little facetious, but I seem to remember a study I saw that showed how much more unsatisfied doctors are with EHR today versus pre-MU. I imagine it’s not all MU’s fault, but it certainly hasn’t helped with physician EHR satisfaction.

April 6, 2014 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.

You might be an #HITNerd If…

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You might be an #HITNerd If…

you know that blue button is not a funny ICD-10 code.

Find all our #HITNerd references on: EMR and EHR & EMR and HIPAA.

NEW: Check out the #HITNerd store to purchase an #HITNerd t-shirt of cell phone case.

Note: Much like Jeff Foxworthy is a redneck. I’m well aware that I’m an #HITNerd.

March 30, 2014 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.

Surviving 2014: The Toughest Year in Healthcare

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The following is a guest blog post by Ben Quirk, CEO of Quirk Healthcare Solutions.
Ben Quirk
How bad is 2014 for the healthcare industry? We’ve all read about ICD-10, EHR incentives, Medicare cuts, and the Affordable Care Act. But the most telling moment for me occurred during this year’s HIMSS conference in Orlando. There was quite a bit of B2B enthusiasm, but among the civilians it was mostly a lot of stunned looks and talk about how to get through the year. Here are some of my observations:

ICD-10. CMS has made it abundantly clear there will be no further delays to the October 1 deadline for ICD-10 implementation. This is possibly the most significant change to the healthcare industry in 35 years, affecting claims payment/billing systems, clearinghouses, and private and public software applications. Anyone who provides or receives healthcare in the US will be touched by this in some way.

In a recent poll of healthcare providers conducted by KPMG, less than half of the respondents said they had performed basic testing on ICD-10, and only a third had completed comprehensive tests. Moreover, about 3 out of 4 said they did not plan to conduct tests of any kind with entities outside their organizations.

Incorrect claims denial will be the most likely result. CMS will not process ICD-9 Medicare/Medicaid claims after October 1, and there is a high potential for faulty ICD-10 coding or bad mapping to ICD-9 codes. Error rates of 6 to 10 percent are anticipated, compared to an average of 3 percent under ICD-9. ICD-10 will result in a 100 to 200 percent increase in denial rates, with a related increase in receivable days of 20 to 40 percent. Cash flow problems could extend up to two years following implementation. This will be a costly issue for providers, and a very visible issue for patients.

We advise our clients to be proactive in their financial planning. This should include preparation for delayed claims adjudication and payments, adjustments to cash reserves, or even arranging for a new/increased line of credit. Having sufficient cash on hand to cover overhead during the final quarter of 2014 could be very important, as could future reserves to cover up to six months of payment delays. Companies not in a position to set aside reserves should consider working with lenders now before any issues arise.

Meaningful Use. As with ICD-10, CMS has stated there will be no delays to MU deadlines in 2014. That means providers who have never attested must do so by September 30, or else be subject to penalties in the form of Medicare payment adjustments starting in 2015. Providers who have attested in the past will have a bit longer (until December 31), but the penalties are the same.

There is much dissatisfaction with the government’s “all or nothing” approach to MU, where even the slightest misstep can invalidate an otherwise accurate attestation. While the ONC has proposed a more lenient model for EHR certification in coming years, everything will be measured against a hard deadline in 2014.  CMS is offering some mitigation through hardship exemptions, based on rules that are somewhat broad at this point. Providers should consider applying for an exemption if no other options are available.

We advise against taking shortcuts or rushing to beat the clock on MU. Up to ten percent of eligible professionals and hospitals will be subject to audit, and large hospitals may have millions of dollars at stake. Being prepared for an audit means more than just making sure an attestation is iron-clad; internal workflow and communication are also important. A mishandled audit notification can result in a late response and automatic failure.  Data security should also not be overlooked. Medical groups have failed audits due to lapsed security risk assessments as required under HIPAA.

Medicare Payment Cuts. Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) cuts continue to hover over Medicare providers. Enacted by Congress in 1997, the SGR was intended to control costs by cutting reimbursements to providers based on prior year expenditures. But every year costs continue to rise, as do ever-worse SGR cuts (almost 24% in 2015). And every year Congress prevents the cuts via so-called “doc fix” legislation.

In early 2014 there was surprising bi-partisan agreement on a permanent doc fix, whereby Medicare reimbursements would be based on quality measures rather than overall expenditures. However, the legislation was derailed by linking it to a delay of the ACA’s individual mandate. As of mid-March there is still no permanent or temporary solution. Congress will almost certainly intervene to prevent SGR cuts, but by how much is uncertain.

The ACA. As the cost of insurance has increased over the past decade, high-deductible plans have become more and more common. Due to the Affordable Care Act, this trend has become the norm. Media outlets focus on the impact to consumers, and argue about whether more “skin in the game” leads to better choices or less care. What we’re hearing from the front lines is much more concrete: high deductibles are having a negative impact on revenues.

Very few people understand their liabilities under a typical health insurance plan. Last year George Loewenstein, a health-care economist with Carnegie Mellon University, published a survey showing that only 14 percent of respondents understood the basics of traditional insurance policies. At the same time, hospitals report that about 25 percent of bad debt originates from patients who are currently insured. With millions of new enrollees in high-deductible plans and an ongoing economic slump, the situation can only get worse.

The ACA had a further impact by reducing the amount of Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) charity funds available, based on a projected increase in insurance coverage.  But with some states not participating in Medicaid expansion, combined with an increase in patients lacking the knowledge or resources to manage large medical expenditures, the reduction in funds comes at exactly the wrong time.

Providers can cope by adjusting revenue cycle processes. For example, new programs should focus on estimating patient liabilities pre-arrival, educating the patient at check-in, and instituting proactive billing/collection at the point of service. In general, providers must pay more attention to the self-pay process, focusing on patient education and offering transparent, easy-to-use billing and payment methods.

Value Modifier. This program has not been a worry for most providers thus far. Not because it won’t have an impact on revenue, but because they don’t know about it. A little-known provision of the ACA, the Value-Based Payment Modifier mandates adjustments to Medicare reimbursement based on quality and cost measures. The program is being phased in, and so far has applied only to group practices of 100 or more Eligible Professionals (EPs). In 2014, smaller groups of 10 or more EPs will be subject to the legislation. These groups must apply and report to the program by October 1. Otherwise, they will be subject to a 2 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements starting in 2016.

One of the most important aspects of the program is its definition of “eligible professional” when defining the size of a group practice. For the purposes of Value Modifier, eligible professionals include not only physicians but also practitioners and therapists. That means that a practice with 8 physicians, a nurse practitioner, and a physical therapist would qualify as a practice with 10 EPs.

Value Modifier is part of the growing trend toward quality-based reimbursement. Even commercial payers are considering some version of the program. The scoring calculations are complex and poorly understood, so we advise clients to get up-to-speed as soon as possible. Groups with high quality and low cost will receive incentives rather than cuts, with additional upward adjustment for services to high-risk beneficiaries. Groups that are not paying attention may be surprised by an additional hit to revenue in 2016. In addition, quality scores will eventually be published to the general public on the Medicare.gov Physician Compare website.  Sub-par or missing scores could have a negative financial impact on a practice.

Conclusion

These are only the most high-profile impacts to the healthcare industry during the current year. Much else flows from them: changes to workflow, to computer systems, to financial expectations. Tremendous pressures are coming to bear within a limited timeframe.  We’re seeing an industry in the midst of tectonic change, with 2014 as the fault line. It’s unclear whether these disruptions will be for better or worse. But there certainly will be winners and losers, and those who plan ahead are most likely to survive.

______________________

Ben Quirk is CEO of Quirk Healthcare Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in EHR strategic management, workflow optimization, systems development, and training. The company’s clients have enjoyed remarkable success, including award of the Medicare Advantage 5-star rating. Quirk Healthcare presents a weekly webinar series, Insights, to inform clients and the general public about government programs and industry trends. Mr. Quirk is also Executive Director of the Quirk Healthcare Foundation, a learning institution which fosters innovation in the healthcare industry.

March 26, 2014 I Written By

ICD-10 – Is Everyone Ready? – ICD-10 Tuesdays

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The following is a guest post by Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America.
Barry Haitoff
One of the biggest challenges to revenue a practice will face in 2014 is the move to ICD-10 on October 1, 2014. One of the biggest challenges with ICD-10 is that it impacts the entire healthcare ecosystem. This means that revenue flow could be impacted if any one part of the healthcare billing continuum isn’t ready.

The first key step every organization can take to prepare for the switch to ICD-10 is to do an audit of which systems, people, and processes will be impacted by the change. Second, you should evaluate the ICD-10 readiness of each system, people and process. Finally, you should make a plan for how you’ll ensure that each piece of the puzzle is ready for ICD-10.

Here’s a quick look at some of the places you’ll want to look when doing an audit of your ICD-10 readiness:
EHR Software
This is an obvious one. We all know that the EHR vendor needs to be ready for ICD-10. However, as John posted previously, Is Your EHR Ready for ICD-10, Not Just Say They’re Ready? it’s really easy for an EHR vendor to say they’ll be ready for ICD-10. At the core of being ready for ICD-10 is just being able to use a new code. Every EHR vendor will be able to enter the new code. Instead of asking if they are ready for ICD-10, you should ask your EHR vendor what interface they’ve created for you to be able to find the ICD-10 codes. You’ll want to get in and test this new interface for finding codes well before the ICD-10 deadline so they can make any changes to the software.

Providers
Every doctor I know understands they they’re going to have to be ready for ICD-10. They’ve heard about the expanded set of codes and how finding the right code is likely going to take extra time. What many doctors haven’t realized yet is that with increased coding specificity, the doctor’s documentation is going to have to change as well. Coding 101 is that the coding has to match the documentation. This will require every doctor to change the way they document their visit even if it’s only a small change.

Billing Software
This is another obvious one and many of the lessons mentioned above about EHR software apply to billing software. However, you’ll definitely want to make sure that your billing software is ready for ICD-10. Can you imagine the impact to your organization if they’re not ready? You might not think this is possible, but I’ve heard some billing software already announce that they’re not planning to revise their software for ICD-10.

Billers and Coders
This is the group that seems most prepared for ICD-10. Most people realize that the coders or billers in their organization need to be ready for ICD-10. Unfortunately for many organizations, that’s where they think all the ICD-10 preparation needs to happen. As this list shows, they are so wrong. However, if you haven’t invested in getting your billers and coders ready for ICD-10, then you better start doing so now. In some cases you may have an older coder that chooses to retire instead of learning ICD-10. Make sure you learn if this is the case now instead of October 1st.

Billing Company
It’s really hard to imagine a billing company not being ready for ICD-10. It’s a basic fundamental of them being a business. If they can’t do ICD-10 they’ll be out of business. However, it makes sense for you to check with them to see what they’ve done to prepare for ICD-10. You’re their customer and it never hurts to hold them accountable. If they don’t thank you up front, they’ll thank you on October 1st when they’re ready for the change.

Labs and Radiology
You’d think that these wouldn’t be that big of an issue since we’re just talking about a new code that gets sent to the lab or radiology. However, if they’re not expecting ICD-10 codes, your patients could run into issues. Plus, many of you have interfaces which send this information automatically. You’ll want to make sure that these interfaces can handle the new codes as well.

Payors
This is probably the most important one and also one of the most challenging. It is the most important, because if they’re not ready for ICD-10 that could mean that you stop getting paid. In many organizations, a hit to their cash flow could have serious ramifications. My guess is that some of you don’t think that this could ever really happen. I assure you that it could happen. Certainly they’ll eventually fix whatever issues they have and they’ll get rolling with ICD-10. Although, will it take them a week, a month, a couple months, to fix whatever issues they may be experiencing? Can you handle not getting paid for a week, month, or multiple months? The challenge is that there’s no simple way for you to know if the payors are indeed ready for ICD-10. The best advice I can offer is a famous statement, “The squeaky wheel gets greased.” Don’t be afraid to make some noise to make sure they’re ready.

Hospitals and HIE
Many vendors are starting to build interfaces with their hospital or an outside HIE (Health Information Exchange). If you have one of these interfaces, you’ll want to make sure that it can support the new ICD-10 codes. Don’t forget to check and test both sides of the interface for their ICD-10 readiness.

Other ICD-10 Readiness Advice
When assessing the readiness of the various entities listed above (and you will likely have others), it’s important that you ask the right questions to make sure you get the right answers. Much like when you’re evaluating between EHR vendors, you want to avoid asking Yes/No questions. For example, if you ask your EHR vendor, “Are you ready for ICD-10?” then you will quickly get a response of Yes. If instead you ask, “What have you done to get ready for ICD-10?” you will get a much more informative answer that helps you understand their true ICD-10 readiness.

Also, when doing your assessment of their readiness, don’t forget to also verify that they can handle ICD-9 for those situations where an organization still hasn’t moved to ICD-10. Yes, it’s crazy that some government organizations aren’t moving to ICD-10. However, it’s the stark reality, so make sure that when needed to you can still support ICD-9 as well.

In all of this, there’s a challenging balance between doing your training too early or too late. If you train your doctors on ICD-10 too early, then they’re likely to forget it by the time October 1st rolls around. However, if you wait until the ICD-10 deadline approaches, the resources for ICD-10 won’t be available. Can you imagine what it will be like to try and hire an ICD-10 coder or ICD-10 trainer in September?

Medical Management Corporation of America, a leading provider of medical billing services, is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA.

March 25, 2014 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.

#HIMSS14 Day 3 – Lack of Innovation

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On the bus ride home from the HIMSS14 party at Universal Studios, I sat next to a hospital CIO. She summed up the conference perfectly, “I’m tired, but also energized to go forward and do great things.” There you have the HIMSS conference in a beautiful nutshell.

It’s always a really great experience to come to HIMSS and interact with amazing people. As long as intelligent, smart, fun, wonderful people keep coming to HIMSS, it will be worth it for me to attend.

While I love attending, this HIMSS I was pretty disappointed with the real lack of major innovation that I found at the event. As is usually the case, I had a few people ask me what I found that was really interesting and innovative at the event. This year I didn’t really have an answer. Much of the progress we’re seeing with healthcare IT has been around building to government regulations along with incremental progress.

Of course, I will offer the disclaimer that I was only able to meet and talk with ~40-50 companies (of the ~1300 vendors) and talk to a few hundred people over the main 3 days. So, maybe there was a lot of innovation out there and I just missed it. Maybe it was in one of those hundreds of HIMSS press releases I got and I somehow missed it. However, I heard a similar sentiment from other attendees.

It’s also worth commenting that I’m in touch with many of these companies now on a regular basis. Maybe when I come to HIMSS I’m just seeing the next generation of something I’ve often seen and heard was already coming and so it doesn’t feel like much of an innovation to me. However, with a broader view it is an incredible innovation that I’m taking for granted.

Innovation or not, I can assure you that there is a cloud of regulation that’s hanging over every piece of healthcare IT. It’s overwhelming to vendors, providers, hospital organizations, and quite frankly everyone in the industry. Healthcare has always been a highly regulated world, but I think this is much more regulation than health IT has ever experienced before.

While I was sad to not see major innovations, I do think we’re making incremental progress towards a better healthcare IT future. Exchanging healthcare data is feeling closer than its ever been before. The changing payment model is likely going to drive this to reality. We’re starting down a really exciting path to turning healthcare data into information (to steal from an old IBM line). It’s still going to take a number of years for both of these items to become a standard, but it’s starting to march down that path.

I still have major concerns for the physician #EHRbacklash. Many EHR vendors are still naive to this coming backlash and many aren’t doing what they need to do to avoid it. I also think ICD-10 is going to be a major train wreck for a large portion of healthcare.

As is usually the case in life, there are good and bad things. Life is about learning to deal with both in the best way possible. I’m still as optimistic as ever about the potential of EHR and Health IT. We’re not where we should be when it comes to really getting the value out of the technology, but I am confident we will get there. One of my favorite quotes from the movie Remember the Titans sums up my views well:

February 26, 2014 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.

You might be an #HITNerd If…

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You might be an #HITNerd If…

you have flash cards with ICD 10 codes on the front and diagnoses on the back.

Find all our #HITNerd references on: EMR and EHR & EMR and HIPAA.

Credit: Rick Pereira

Note: Much like Jeff Foxworthy is a redneck. I’m well aware that I’m an #HITNerd.

February 16, 2014 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.

Interview with Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America

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The following is an interview with Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America.
Barry Haitoff

Tell us about Medical Management Corporation of America (MMCOA).
MMCOA helps physicians and physician groups increase collections, assure compliance, manage overhead and navigate the maze of EMR/EHR, Meaninful Use, PQRS and other Government incentive programs and regulations. With a focus on revenue cycle management, MMCOA helps our clients stay ahead of the curve with things like the transition to ICD-10.

What are the keys to running a good medical billing company?
Like any successful business, I believe the 2 most important assets are people and systems. We hire, retain and cultivate quality individuals and empower them with state of the art systems and technology. We never settle for status quo and continue to look for better ways of doing things. My style of leadership is one of servitude. It is my goal to provide all staff members a great work environment, financial incentives and proper tools to perform their functions.

What’s your take on the economics of outsourcing medical billing? Where’s the ROI for an office that’s considering going with an outside medical billing company like yours?
I tell physicians, “do what you do best and outsource the rest”. Your tax work is handled by a professional accountant, your legal work is handled by a professional attorney, who is handling your billing? Outsourcing your billing can sometimes be more expensive than keeping it in-house, however, the return should far outweigh the added cost.

Most practices do not have adequate resources in their billing department to do the right job. A great deal of money winds up being left on the table. There is a reason that the tallest buildings in most metropolitan cities are owned by insurance companies. A quality billing company will increase your collections at a rate that will far exceed the fee.

In addition, because the typical fee structure is based on a percentage of collections, not only does the billing company have “skin in the game” to do a good job, the billing overhead of the practice is better managed. If one or more physicians are out of the office on vacation resulting in lower charges, that eventually results in lower collections. With billing in-house the practice still pays salaries, benefits, software licenses etc. All the fixed costs remain in place regardless of collections that month. With outsourced billing company, the practice’s cost for billing is directly in proportion to the amount collected that month.

What are some of the biggest changes to medical billing that have happened over the past couple years?
EMR/EHR, PQRS, ePrescribing, HIPAA, Meaningful Use, Accountable Care Organizations, Value/Quality based reimbursement, Bundling, Health Insurance Exchanges, added governmental regulations, OIG compliance and soon…..ICD-10, ICD-10, ICD-10. ICD-10 will prove to be the biggest challenge to date. We’re ready!

How is medical billing going to be impacted by things like ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations) and value based reimbursement?
Someone will still need to make sure that services rendered are reimbursed properly. More challenging, someone will need to distribute funds appropriately to the myriad of providers involved. There will be a greater need for revenue cycle management as payments are bundled.

Is healthcare ready for ICD-10? What are you doing to make sure you’re ready?
Our research to date says no. Providers and staff are not yet trained. Insurance carriers and software vendors have not yet successfully tested.

We have established an ICD-10 committee headed by our Director of Healthcare Informatics. We have begun informing and educating our clients and staff, researching tools, attending training sessions, initiating dialogue with our software vendors and staying up to date.

In what ways has the Accountable Care Act (Obamacare) and the health insurance exchanges impacted your clients?
I’d say that it’s caused a whirlwind of confusion. Providers must take the time to determine which HIX plan networks they’re in, so as not to provide care outside of a contracted relationship with the HIX plans, which predominantly lack out-of-network coverage. We expect our clients to become busier. We expect the additional covered lives to find their way into our clients’ offices. We have helped our clients figure out if they are participants in the Exchanges in their area.

A number of EHR companies have started doing medical billing. How do you differentiate the services you offer versus an EHR vendor?
Most of the EHR vendors that have just started doing medical billing, just started doing medical billing. MMCOA has been in business for 18 years, growing primarily by word of mouth. Some of the EHR vendors are publicly held companies whose most important stake holder is their shareholders. Our most important stakeholder is our clients. We have had clients leave us for those solutions and have since come back. We will continue to provide quality service on a consistent basis and will never sacrifice integrity for growth.

What are the biggest revenue cycle management issues you see in organizations?
Not enough staff. Outdated or inadequate technology. Lack of leadership. Lack of ongoing training. Lack of incentive.

Where do you see revenue cycle management going in the future?
My crystal ball is broken right now. Seriously though, there is a lot of consolidation in our industry and the smaller billing companies will likely go out of business or be acquired. Physicians and physician groups will continue to need assistance with their reimbursements. Unless all healthcare providers wind up employed by an ACO, Hospital System or other Healthcare entity with adequate revenue cycle management expertise, there will be a need for continued navigation of the maze we know as healthcare revenue cycle management.

Medical Management Corporation of America, a leading provider of medical billing services, is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA.

January 20, 2014 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.

Will Your EHR Vendor Be Around in 5 Years?

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The following is a guest post by Angela Carter, marketing manager at ChartLogic.
Angela Carter
A major concern physicians have dealt with over the past 10–15 years has been choosing the right EHR solution for their practice. With the rise and fall of numerous electronic health record companies, that concern has evolved to whether a chosen EHR will still be in business five years from now.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), there are over 900 EHR vendors currently on the market, many of whom offer more than one product. In some ways, the huge number of EHR choices has been a good thing for healthcare; it has forced vendors to be more innovative and to cater to the needs of their users. However, the market can’t possibly sustain this many similar projects for long. Eventually, small vendors will be swallowed up by larger vendors and many others will simply go out of business.

So how do you know if your EHR vendor will survive the EHR purge that has already started? Of course there is no way of knowing for sure, but below are a few questions you can ask yourself that will give you a good idea of your EHR’s future.

1. How long has the vendor been in business?

Past performance is usually a good measuring stick for the future. Hundreds of vendors were born after the HITECH Act was passed in 2009, which means that most EHR vendors are still relatively new. Newer EHR companies aren’t necessarily a bad thing—some of them are actually better than some of the legacy systems that have been around for decades—but be wary of any company that doesn’t have the years in business to back it up. A vendor that has already proven it has weathered the EHR storms for 10–15 years will be much more likely to survive current and future challenges than the new, promising EHRs.

Don’t just look at how long the vendor has been in business, though. Research the vendor’s track record as well. If your vendor has a high retention rate—90 percent or higher—then you’re in good company.

2. How usable is the EHR?

For years, doctors put up with EHRs that didn’t meld with their workflow, but that tolerance is coming to an end. Black Book Rankings called 2013 “The Year of the Great EHR Switch” because most EHR implementations happened in practices that were on their second or third EHR. The reason for this shift? Usability. Eighty-seven percent of doctors cited usability as their primary complaint about EHRs. (Source: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/7/prweb10926499.htm)

For some reason it took many years for usability of EHR systems to catch on, but now that it has, the difficult-to-use systems will have a difficult time holding on to customers. Point-and-click EHRs have never been popular among physicians, especially those who see 50+ patients a day. EHRs that utilize voice technology, though, are growing in popularity. It is highly unlikely that any EHR system will cater 100 percent to a physician’s needs and preferences, but voice offers much more flexibility than traditional point-and-click systems do, not to mention voice-driven systems are more likely to follow the workflow physicians already use.

3. How well does your vendor understand your specialty?

The reason the industry hasn’t settled on just a couple of vendors by now is because workflow among different specialties varies so widely. Physicians need vendors that are very good at their specialty, not those that claim to answer to the needs of all physicians. A vendor that dedicates itself to producing and improving capabilities that align with your specific needs will take much better care of you. Not only that, but they will be more able to evolve with you as technological demands change, giving the company more stability in a shaky market.

4. How’s the support?

Never underestimate the power of a good support team. Most EHRs aren’t designed to work flawlessly fresh out of the box; you need adequate training and ongoing support, too. A recent Software Advice survey revealed that about 60 percent of respondents reported “learning to use the system” as a one of the main challenges with their EHR, even more challenging than achieving meaningful use or finding costs to support the system. (source: http://www.softwareadvice.com/medical/userview/ehr-survey/)

As a business metric, support may be even more powerful than usability, especially since federal regulations keep tightening, limiting the freedom to change certain aspects of an EHR. A vendor that communicates with its customers regularly will stand out.

5. Is the vendor ready for meaningful use stage 2? ICD-10?

Over a thousand vendors certified for meaningful use the first time around. Less than 40 of those vendors have received complete ambulatory certification required for 2014. Add ICD-10 to the mix and very few vendors will be able to keep up with these increasingly difficult technological advancements. Vendors that don’t have a plan already in place regarding how they will re-certify for meaningful use and be ICD-10 compliant will be among the first to go.

A vendor that scores well in each of the five questions above will most likely have what it takes to make it through the next five years.

Angela Carter is a marketing manager at ChartLogic, an EHR for orthopedists, ENT doctors, and other specialists. In addition to managing all of the company’s content, she writes regular blog posts for various health IT sites. She is also the associate editor for Utah Technology Magazine, a start-up magazine that aims to tell the tech story happening in Utah.

January 10, 2014 I Written By

Six 2014 Healthcare IT, EMR, and HIPAA Predictions

Written by:

Let’s take a bold, but realistic look at what we can expect in 2014 when it comes to healthcare IT, EMR and HIPAA. It will be fun to look back at the end of 2014 to see if I’m right. Hopefully you’ll add your 2014 predictions in the comments.

HIPAA Omnibus Poster Children – In 2014, I think we’re going to see a few companies have major issues with HIPAA Omnibus. Those examples will be widely reported and be the “poster children” for violating HIPAA Omnibus. I’ll go further in my prediction to say that a couple of them will be companies who are business associates who didn’t comply with HIPAA. In fact, I won’t be surprised if one of those poster children isn’t a really large corporation who didn’t realize that they were a business associate and required to comply with HIPAA. Plus, we’re going to see some major HIPAA violation related to SMS messages.

Direct Project Takes Off – With many getting set for meaningful use stage 2, watch for 2014 to be the breakout year for Direct Project. Direct project won’t surpass the fax machine for sharing medical records in healthcare, but many doctors will start asking for someone’s direct address as opposed to fax number. Doctors will finally start being able to know the answer to that question.

EHR Adoption Increases – Meaningful Use Participation Falls Off a Cliff (ambulatory, not acute) – This seems to be a contradiction, but I know many doctors who happily use an EHR and have no desire to touch meaningful use with a long stick. As the meaningful use money goes down and the requirements ramp up, many doctors are going to eschew meaningful use, but continue meaningfully using their EHR the way they think is right. EHR is here to stay, but meaningful use is going to take a big hit.

Wearable Tech Finds Its Place in Hospitals – In 2014, Google Glass will finally be put out as an official product. I believe it will be considered a failure as a consumer product in 2014 (give it until 2016 to be a great consumer device), but it will find some amazing uses in healthcare. Kyle Samani talks about some of his thoughts in this video, but I think we’ll discover many more. A PA and dentist friend of mine were some of the most interesting demos I’ve done with Google Glass. Of course, other competitors to Google Glass will come out as well. It will be fun to see which one of those wins.

ICD-10 Will Drive Many Organizations Towards Bankruptcy – Many underestimate the impact that ICD-10 will have on organizations. If it doesn’t send many to bankruptcy it will certainly cause cash flow issues for many. This is going to happen and many organizations are planning for it. We’ll see how well they prepare. Overpriced EHR software won’t be helping those that head towards bankruptcy either. Combine the two forces and some organizations are going to suffer this year.

EHR Vendors Will Start Dropping Like Flies – As I’ve said many times before, we won’t see the EHR consolidation that many are talking about (ie. 5 EHR vendors). However, we will start to see major EHR vendor fall out in 2014. Most of the press releases will spin it as a win for the company and the end users, but there are going to be a lot of unhappy EHR users when these companies start folding up shop through acquisition or otherwise.

January 2, 2014 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.