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Healthcare Execs Want To Collect More From Patients

Posted on May 26, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger 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.

Every healthcare provider wants to get paid, of course. However, collecting the ever-growing portion of revenue that patients owe is tough, and getting tougher. That being said, the majority of providers recognize that they have a big problem and are working to boost the volume and speed of patient payments, a new study finds.

The study, which is sponsored by claims management and patient payments vendor Navicure in affiliation with Porter Research, connected with 300 of professionals, including practice administrators (36%), C-suite executives (25%) and billing managers (35%). Forty-one percent of organizations had 1 to 10 providers, 31% had 11 to 50 providers, 12% had 51 to 100 providers and 17% had more than 100 providers.

In responding to the survey, 63% of survey respondents said that patient payment processes were a high priority for their leadership teams. Their challenges in collecting from patients included patients’ inability to pay (31%), difficulty educating patients about the financial responsibility (26%) and slow-paying patients (25%).

It’s not surprising that collecting patient payments is a priority for many organizations. The study found that patient payment revenue made up 11% to 20% of total revenue for almost a third of organizations that responded. Twenty percent of organizations said patient payments accounted for 21% to 30% of total revenue, and for 23%, patient payments accounted for more than 31% of total revenue.

More than half (57%) of respondents said they educate patients about their financial responsibility, but only 42% said they always estimate the patient’s cost at the time of service. What’s more, few have implemented steps that might streamline payment. Sixty-two percent do not offer credit card on file programs, 52% don’t have automated payment plans in place, and 57% don’t send electronic statements to patients.

To address these issues, Navicure recommends that providers make several changes in their patient payment processes. These include viewing patients’ eligibility information prior to or at the time of service, collecting copays and outstanding balances, creating care estimates and enrolling patients in any available payment plans.

While the survey doesn’t address this issue directly, it also doesn’t hurt to make bills more readable. I’ve read accounts of some hospital billing departments and medical office staffers spending hours on the phone with patients going over charges. Not only does this frustrate the patients, and undermine their relationship with your organization, it wastes a lot of time. Cleaning up bill formats can go a long way toward smoothing out routine payment issues.

On that note, it probably makes sense to roll out patient-friendly billing technologies. More than 70% of respondents who have replaced paper statements with online bill payment and e-statements would recommend this technology to a peer, and 42% of respondents using automated payment plans were very or completely satisfied.

Ultimately, however, collecting more from patients probably calls for changes in policy, the research suggests. While 35% ask for a partial deposit before service, and 26% collect all of what a patient owes before service, 18% of respondents said they didn’t collect anything before prior to service, and 21% said they didn’t charge until claims were processed.

Five Commonly Overlooked ICD-10 IT Transition Strategies

Posted on December 1, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Daniel M. Flanagan, Executive Consultant, Beacon Partners.
Daniel M. Flanagan, Executive Consultant, Beacon Partners
While some organizations have relaxed their approach to ICD-10 readiness given the October 1, 2015 extension, recent polls show that the majority of healthcare organizations remain woefully unprepared.  About 60% of healthcare systems and 96% of physician practices have not begun end-to-end testing according to recent surveys conducted by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and Navicure, a leading claims clearinghouse. A lack of testing puts the ICD-10 transition at the greatest risk of failure.

ICD-10 readiness planning should remain a top priority because conducting a comprehensive gap analysis and the resulting remediation work will correct system vulnerabilities that will improve revenue cycle performance today.  However, systems performance improvement is time and resource-intensive and cannot be achieved at the last minute.

Below are five often overlooked transition planning steps:

  1. Update and complete your IT system inventory. We have helped several healthcare organizations prepare for ICD-10 and a common vulnerability is the absence of a complete and accurate IT inventory. Nearly one-third of organizations do not keep an inventory, and, of those that do, most are inaccurate. Many contain systems that are no longer in use and fail to reflect new or recently upgraded applications. Only a few organizations have had a complete IT inventory that accurately reflects all systems requiring end-to-end testing.  We often discover code-sensitive “orphan” applications and systems implemented by end-users without the IT department’s review and approval, which must be added to the inventory. An accurate IT inventory is critical to determine the extent of testing required, and to budget the time and expense needed to complete it.
  1. Review the number and functionality of all interfaces. Revenue cycle interfaces often contain the most critical code processing gaps and represent an organization’s greatest transition risk. For example, workflow analysis sometimes reveals unreliable processing of ICD-9 codes by billing system or other interfaces.  Extensive remediation is needed after the readiness assessment is completed in such cases.  Highly unreliable manual systems are also often used to process code, which impacts work that should be handled electronically. When conducting a workflow analysis, we sometimes find that experienced revenue cycle system end-users disagree about the design and functionality of long-standing systems and interfaces. Friction can arise between end-users and IT application specialists when interfaces do not work or appear not to work properly. Such issues can often be resolved quickly and objectively when a workflow analysis is performed early in the readiness planning process.
  1. Enlist the support of system end-users early to identify performance gaps and devise solutions. Readiness requires that any system that stores, processes, or uses diagnosis codes be identified and tested. However, it is easy to overlook some important performance gaps. In the majority of cases, end-users can readily identify performance gaps and recommend potential, practical solutions.  End-users can also be valuable in identifying potential solutions.  Involving end-users as early as possible in transition planning can avert wasted time.  For instance CDI, case management, as well as QA operating and reporting systems are heavily code-driven, but can be tough to “see,” especially if work is performed on paper. Enlisting end-users to identify code-impacted systems is a great way to ensure nothing is missed.
  1. Set a date to begin testing and verify that payers, clearinghouses, IT vendors, and others tied to your revenue cycle are ICD-10 compliant. End-to-end testing is vital to confirm ICD-10 readiness. Without testing, problem areas are not recognized and will not get fixed, which places the transition at the greatest of failure. Request that each payer and vendor confirm system compliance in writing and set a date when testing will begin.  In addition, we always recommend that our clients call and, if possible, visit key payers to confirm their readiness.   A payer’s inability to commit to a testing date is a warning sign that warrants immediate follow-up.
  1. Align transition efforts and resources with top priority goals. Transition planning will highlight performance improvement opportunities across a range of systems — including IT, revenue cycle, clinical documentation, quality assurance, and EMR.  The variety of performance improvement opportunities sometimes results in an organization creating more goals than needed for a successful transition. Supplemental initiatives can be overwhelming to achieve with restricted resources in a limited timeframe.  The key is to identify “mission critical” transition objectives and allocate scarce resources accordingly.  Define clear objectives and create a detailed plan to monitor progress for achieving each goal.  For example:
    • Revenue cycle performance: Create benchmarks and dashboards for Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that routinely report system performance now and after ICD-10 go-live.
    • IT: Validate system interfaces and upgrades, and perform testing to ensure confirmation of claim submission data flow. Testing results will provide valuable guidance to remediation efforts.
    • Clinical documentation: Establish a Clinical Documentation Improvement Program (CDIP) to audit provider documentation and coding. The initiative should be designed to provide ongoing training, as well as measure progress while ensuring data integrity, medical necessity, and billing compliance.

Although the deadline may have shifted, healthcare organizations need to stay on track to make the necessary IT and systems changes needed to optimize performance now and in the future.

About Daniel M. Flanagan
Daniel M. Flanagan is a seasoned healthcare executive with 28 years of leadership experience in the health system, physician practice and managed care fields. His primary interest has been performance improvement, especially in revenue cycle operations, improvement plan development and implementation and strategic planning, budgeting and implementation. Mr. Flanagan understands the challenges posed by today’s environment and is experienced in helping clients identify and capitalize upon opportunities to improve organizational performance.