Posts Tagged PM

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The Danger Signs of Picking the Wrong Medical Billing Company

Dangers Signs with your Medical Billing Service

 

Outsourcing your billing can be a great decision.

Practices typically outsource billing when they feel they don’t have the people, space, resources, bandwidth or finances to keep billing in-house. There is a strong difference of opinion as to which model is less expensive. Most billing companies will charge 4% – 8% of net revenue, which is medical revenue minus any payer and patient refunds. Most medical billing companies charge on the lower side of the range for surgical groups and other high-dollar specialties and on the higher side of the range for primary care and other medicine specialties. Some states require billing companies to charge on a flat fee as opposed to a percentage, as it is felt that paying a percentage of revenue incentivizes billing companies to “game” the system in trying to maximize revenue.

We work with many practices that either want to bring their billing back in-house again or want to outsource their billing again. For those wanting to outsource their billing, we offer a list of the danger signs to watch for when choosing a medical billing company you’ll be tied to in the years (contract are usually 3 years) to come.

Danger Sign #1: They have no existing clients in your specialty.

It’s true that most physician coders and biller are trained on all specialties, but coding and billing rules change annually, and if the billing company isn’t up to speed on the nuances of your specialty, how long will it take them to get there?

Danger Sign #2: They will not give you any references except the ones on their pre-printed list.

You know that saying – a company is not going to put any name on their reference list that won’t give them a glowing reference. Some companies give you their entire list of clients – they’re not afraid! If they only give you 10 names and you know they have 100 clients, you have to ask what’s wrong with the other 90?

Danger Sign #3: They do not give you access to their system to look up patient accounts.

This is where a system on the cloud makes everything so easy – the vendor assigns you a login and initial password and you can look at everything. Why wouldn’t you expect to have 100% access to your own data? Recently I heard of a billing company that would not give their practices access to their system because it was “proprietary.” What is proprietary about a billing system and what are they afraid you will see?

Danger Sign #4: They do not allow you to run your own reports.

This is similar to #3, but I have had billing companies provide me with reports that are not system-generated. In other words, they took the data from the system reports and entered it into a spreadsheet. So I don’t know if the numbers are real or not. I insist that all reports given me by a billing company be system-generated. They can give me a snapshot report that simplifies the information, but I want the system-generated reports as well.

Danger Sign #5: They do not allow you to have an interview with the lead biller on your account.

I want to know who will have this crucial role in my client’s financial wellbeing and who the staff will be communicating with over the coming years. I also want to know if the biller is a data-entry person or a real thinker.

Danger Sign #6: You’ve never heard of the billing software they use.

There are hundreds of billing systems out there and I am sure I haven’t heard of all of them. If I’ve never heard of this billing software, I’d like to know more about it. How long has it been around? How often is it updated? How many practices are using the software? What do you mean the billing company owner’s wife wrote the software and you are the only ones using it? Is the company big enough to put enough resources into ICD-10 or will they be one that will fall by the wayside before the big switchover?

Danger Sign #7: They will not give you a daily report of their work completed.

You need a daily report on charges, adjustments and payments. If you have access to their system, or they are working on your system, you’ll be able to generate this report yourself, but otherwise, you don’t know what they are doing until month-end. Think of what could potentially happen (or not happen) in four weeks.

Danger Sign #8: They do not give service turnaround guarantees (charges entered 24 hours after receipt, claims processed daily, etc.)

A service guarantee is one of the biggest reasons you outsource your billing. If they don’t have the bench-depth to cover staff losses or unexpected staff shortages, why are you even considering them?

Danger Sign #9: They will not agree to do your billing on your software – they insist on using theirs.

A lot of billing companies will only use one brand of billing software. Take it or leave it. Their profit is dependent on the efficiency and duplication of the same process over and over again. I understand that. But what if you have a system you like, and it is loaded with years of data, but for whatever reason you want someone else to staff it? You can outsource your billing, but don’t commit to losing your system when you’re happy with it.

Danger Sign #10: They cannot integrate electronically and accept your charges from your EMR.

Providers are taking the place of superbills (encounter forms, charge slips, etc.) by having their EMR orders translated into CPT codes. If you are doing this in your EMR (and you should if you’re not!) and you can’t feed that info into a billing system, you’ll have to go back to a paper system such as a superbill. Ask the billing company if you will have to print out anything on your side for them to do their work and use the answer to gauge the additional work outsourcing billing might be for your practice.

The Contract

If you do sign a contract with a billing company, make sure the contract language is very clear on how problems will be resolved. What happens if they don’t meet the service guarantee? What happens if they don’t have adequate backup and your claims aren’t sent for a week while someone is on vacation? The most dangerous time is in the early days when you are in transition from one system to another. Have a timeline for the switchover with very specific goals and penalties if the goals are not met. It’s always good to have a line of credit or a little padding to draw on during a billing switchover – you never know how smoothly things will go. Make sure the termination clause or end of contract term has language on when and how you will receive your data if the billing company is not using your software, and what the cost will be.

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Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Day-to-Day Operations, Finance

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Your Practice Management Software Is Only As Good As Your Practice Management

The Robot Practice Manager

 

A colleague of mine has been part of a well-known PM/EMR company’s software support team for 10 years. She often tries to steer people to me when she cannot solve a client’s problems with a software solution. Even though she was once a practice administrator herself, she is a software support person now and the problems she sends to me cannot be solved with software. “Mary Pat,” she asks me, “Why do they think I can solve their practice management issues? All I am empowered to do is to help them use the software.”

Earlier in my career (before EMR) I heard someone call “Practice Management” software “Billing” software and I remember being offended for some reason. I thought “Billing” was such a narrow description of what PM software did – but they were right. That software is meant to deal with everything billing. It all comes down to billing – whether it is the actual billing/claims management itself, running reports to diagnose billing problems, or capturing recalls so patients get reminded to come in for a service and…get billed. Before you unload on me in the comments let me be clear that I am not saying that healthcare is all about billing, I am only saying that Practice Management software was developed to handle the financial side of the house.

Practice Management software cannot “do” practice management. It cannot figure out your workflow so you capture data in the most efficient way, and it cannot analyze your reports and tell you what to change to increase efficiency or decrease overhead. It certainly cannot tell you the best way to schedule, or how much to charge your self-pay patients. It is only a billing tool.

I have worked in healthcare long enough to have helped practices go from manual billing (you typed or hand-wrote claim information on a 1500 form and mailed it in) to their first practice management system. I did a lot of practice management consulting even though that’s not what I was there to do. I had to get them in shape on paper so they could handle the software. I had to get their workflow optimized so the software would make things better – not worse.

An implementation of Practice Management software is not intended to do anything but set-up the system and train you to use it. Sometimes that perfectly rosy future the salesperson paints is nothing like the painful first steps (and cash flow jam) of a new system. An implementation will not fix the issues that are existing in your practice that have nothing to do with the functionality of your billing system.

 

Your Practice Management Software can:

    • Automate your registration process so patients can register and check-in online, or at a kiosk in the practice.

But your Practice Management Software cannot:

    • Train staff to greet patients and make them welcome in the practice.

 

Your Practice Management Software can:

    • Check the patient’s eligibility for active insurance coverage.

But your Practice Management Software cannot:

    • Automatically choose the correct insurance company/payer to attach to each patient account (one of the biggest problems I hear about in the field!)

 

Your Practice Management Software can:

    • Calculate the days since the patient’s last physical, the days left in a global period or visits left in annual cap. 

But your Practice Management Software cannot:

    • Help the patient understand their benefit plans and understand their financial responsibility.

 

Good practice management has a lot to do with attracting, training, coaching and retaining the right staff, as well as providing them with the tools to do the job you hired them to do. Getting the software right is a must, but don’t expect your software trainers to be able to solve any of your staffing, communication, workflow or cultural problems. That’s up to you, the Practice Manager!

(Photo Credit: baboon™ via Compfight cc)

Posted in: A Career in Practice Management, Collections, Billing & Coding, Day-to-Day Operations, Finance

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Mary Pat and Dr. Peter Polack Discuss (Approximately) 101 Ideas to Increase Revenue and Decrease Costs in a Two Part Podcast

The logo used by Apple to represent Podcasting

 

Mary Pat recently sat down with Peter Polack, MD of Medical Practice Trends for another podcast to talk about one of the most important parts of any practice: The Bottom Line. In this two-part podcast series, Dr. Polack and MP discuss ideas for cutting costs and raising revenue to strengthen any group’s financial position.

Click here to listen to part 1

Click here to listen to part 2

Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations, Finance, General, Manage My Practice Classics

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A Manage My Practice Classic: 101 Ideas for Increasing Revenue and Decreasing Expenses in Your Medical Practice

Mary Pat’s Note: This post has always been popular because it answers one of the most burning questions in Healthcare: “How can I improve my bottom line?” If you have used any of these ideas in your practice- or have some of your own to share- let us know in the comments below!

 

BUILD ON WHAT YOU’RE CURRENTLY DOING:

1. Add physician hours – add evening or weekend hours; start your office hours earlier and end hours later.

2. Reduce physician time off – decrease vacation or change weekly days off to 1/2 days off.

3. Set a minimum number of providers to be in the office seeing patients at all times the office is open.

4. Have each provider add one new patient visit to his/her schedule weekly.

5. Add ePrescribing to recoup additional Medicare revenue and streamline prescribing (there are free ePrescribing software packages available, but evaluate them carefully so they don’t add more complexity to the system instead of less.)

6. Report PQRI measures to recoup additional Medicare revenue.

7. Charge patients an out-of-pocket fee for completing patient forms – disability forms, etc. and reserve office visits for treating patients.

8. Choose an EMR that qualifies your practice for the ARRA money (although it has been widely promoted that in a larger practice, an EMR and its associated work will cost more than you will get from the government.)

9. If you are in an underserved or rural area, check to see if there might be grants or funds available locally, in the state or federally, for adding a service to your practice.

10. If your practice does Independent Medical Exams (IMEs), reviews records or depositions, make sure that your fee schedule for such services is current and that the fees are collected before the physician provides the service.


ADD TO YOUR CURRENT SERVICES:

11. Allergy testing & treatment

12. Dispensing pharmaceuticals

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Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations, Electronic Medical Records, Finance, Manage My Practice Classics

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Re-engineering Billing: Spending Less to Collect More

How does a medical practice meet the patients’ healthcare needs while operating a highly-regulated business on less income? Start by examining one of the most expensive processes in the practice – billing. Billing requires skilled employees, sophisticated technology, and constant vigilance from everyone in the office.  Let’s explore processes that can reduce your billing expense as well as increase your collection percentage.

Clear Financial Policy

If you don’t have a written financial policy, how do patients know when and how to pay? Your practice should have a very understandable (8th grade level or less) financial policy that explains what your practice will do and what the financial responsibilities of the patient are. If you want a copy of the format I like to use, email me at marypat@managemypractice.com and I’ll send it to you. Use the same financial policy to train your entire staff on your policies. If any employee does not support your policies, that employee should not work for you.

How you save money: Everyone is on the same page, so there is no way a patient can game the system by claiming a staff member or physician told them no payment was needed. By the time the patient receives a service, they should have heard verbally about the policy 3 times (appointment, appointment reminder, check-in) and should have received at least one written copy of the policy, which they’ve signed.

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Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Finance

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101 Ideas for Increasing Revenue and Decreasing Expenses in Your Medical Practice

BUILD ON WHAT YOU’RE CURRENTLY DOING:

1.  Add physician hours – add evening or weekend hours; start your office hours earlier and end hours later.

2.  Reduce physician time off – decrease vacation or change weekly days off to 1/2 days off.

3.  Set a minimum number of providers to be in the office seeing patients at all times the office is open.

4.  Have each provider add one new patient visit to his/her schedule weekly.

5.  Add ePrescribing to recoup additional Medicare revenue and streamline prescribing (there are free ePrescribing software packages available, but evaluate them carefully so they don’t add more complexity to the system instead of less.)

6.  Report PQRI measures to recoup additional Medicare revenue.

7.  Charge patients an out-of-pocket fee for completing patient forms – disability forms, etc. and reserve office visits for treating patients.

8.  Choose an EMR that qualifies your practice for the ARRA money (although it has been widely promoted that in a larger practice, an EMR and its associated work will cost more than you will get from the government.)

9.  If you are in an underserved or rural area, check to see if there might be grants or funds available locally, in the state or federally, for adding a service to your practice.

10.  If your practice does Independent Medical Exams (IMEs), reviews records or depositions, make sure that your fee schedule for such services is current and that the fees are collected before the physician provides the service.


ADD TO YOUR CURRENT SERVICES:

11.  Allergy testing & treatment

12.  Dispensing pharmaceuticals

13.  Dispensing nutriceuticals

14.  Dispensing Durable Medical Equipment

15.  Group patient visits

16.  Coumadin Clinic

17.  Heart Failure Clinic

18.  Diabetes Education Classes

19.  Add primary care to specialty care practices

20.  Add specialty care to primary care practices

21.  Research

22.  Joint Ventures with other practices or hospital

23.  Lease space to other entities

24.  eVisits (virtual visits or email visits)

25.  Elective procedures or services

26.  Mid-level providers

27.  Walk-in clinic

28.  Occupational medicine: drug screens, employment physicals, etc.

29.  Hospitalists

30.  Medical Director of local nursing homes

31.  Complementary & alternative medicine (CAM)

32.  Aging in Place services

33.  Social worker

34.  Concierge practice

35.  School team physician

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EVALUATE YOUR REVENUE CYCLE MANAGEMENT:

36.  Are you renegotiating payer contracts regularly?

37.  Do your scheduling staff know how to educate patients about what payers you have contracts with and are in network with and what the patient’s financial responsibility will be?

38.  Do staff know what typical new patient charges are to tell the patient?

39.  Do you check every patient’s eligibility for insurance benefits immediately prior to every service?

40.  Do you have patients sign a financial policy to acknowledge what they are responsible for based on their payer type?

41.  Do you copy the patient’s insurance cards at every visit, or at least compare their current card to the card you have on file?  Are you able to scan patient insurance cards and driver’s licenses into your practice management (PM) system?

42.  Is your PM system able to download the information from the scan into the patient registration screen?  If not, do you have a way to confirm that demographic and insurance information has been entered correctly from the cards?

43.  Are your charges being posted daily?

44.  Does the person who provides the service, or a documentation coding specialist, choose the CPT and ICD9 code?

45.  Is the documentation for the charges being completed within 24 hours of the service?

46.  Is your encounter form up-to-date with current CPT and ICD9 codes; do you order smaller batches of them so you can change the codes as new services are added in the practice?

47.  Do you check the CPT and ICDD9 matching to make sure the codes are valid for the year, the codes adhere to NCCI and LCD edits before you finalize the charges?

48.  Do you regularly audit medical records for coding and documentation and give providers feedback on where coding could be improved?

49.  Are you using ABNs for Medicare patients who want services that Medicare might not pay for?

50.  Do you file claims daily?

51.  Do you correct claims daily when they are rejected at the practice management, claims clearinghouse or payer level?

52.  Do you correct claims daily when they are rejected at the claim level and are not paid for for reasons that can be corrected?

53.  Do you have your contract allowables in your PM system so you know when you are not being paid correctly by contract?

54.  Do you appeal unpaid or underpaid claims?

55.  Do you check recoupments or requests for refunds from payers and make sure they truly should be refunded?

56.  Do you send insurance and patient payments to a lockbox to be scanned and stored digitally for your staff to post from?

57.  Do you make payment arrangements in the office for balances after insurance has paid, or payment plans by drafting credit or debit cards?

58.  Do you have a policy of not sending statements?

59.  Do you collect the patient’s portion of the service at the time of service?

60.  Do you collect fees for elective services prior to providing these services?

61.  Can your patients make payments online through your website?

62.  Do you file a claim with a patient’s estate if they have died?

63.  Do you accept cash only from patients who have passed bad checks?

64. Do you accept cash only from patients who have filed bankruptcy with your practice?

65.  Do you inadvertently see patients who have been dismissed from your practice?

66.  When adding a physician to the practice, do you timeline the credentialing appropriately so the physician can see patients with insurance as well as those without?

67.  If your new physician is only partially credentialed with payers, do you have him/her see the patients with payers they are credentialed with and add payers to their schedule load as the credentialing comes through?

68.  Do you meet with representatives from your largest payers monthly to establish relationships and bring problems to their attention? (the squeeky wheel theory of payer relations)

69.  Are you pre-certing everything that needs pre-certification or pre-authorization or pre-notification to be sure the service will be paid?

70.  Are you receiving payments via electronic funds transfer (EFT)?

71.  Are you receiving explanation of benefits (EOBs) or remittance advice (RA) electronically?

72.  Are you posting your RA electronically?

73.  Are you protecting your practice from embezzlement? (see my post on this here.)

74.  Is someone in the practice responsible for staying current on changing coding requirements for Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare and commercial payers?

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DECREASE EXPENSES:

75.  Eliminate overtime. Evaluate the need for additional staff (part-time?) vs. overtime.

76.  Send some staff home (sometimes called “low census”) when there are no patients to be seen.

77.  Use volunteers. Tap into the local hospital volunteers, or recruit and train your own.

78.  Hire an after-school student employee to do routine jobs.

79. Discontinue paying staff for inclement weather closings when the practice is not open.

80.  Shop everything. Negotiate existing service contracts.  Do not assume anything is non-negotiable.  Negotiate the rent.

81.  Get rid of yellow pages advertising. It rarely brings you new patients and is primarily a place to look up phone numbers.  You will still get your white pages listing free with your phone service.

82.  Utilize pre-employment testing to make sure job applicants have the skills you need.

83.  Shop postage machines or look into stamps.com.

84.  Join a group purchasing entity (hospital, professional association, etc.)

85.  Improve your accounting cycle. Invoices and statements are matched up with packing slips and negotiated prices.  Use purchase order numbers.

86.  Get the payment discount by paying on time or early – ask vendors for an on-time or early payment discount.

87.  Make sure office supplies are not going home with the employees.  Make sure office supplies that are ordered are “really need” and not “sure would be nice.”

88.  Remind patients of their appointments to decrease no-shows.  Call patients who no-show and attempt to reschedule (unless they feel better!)  Track no-shows and evaluate the reasons for them.

89.  Consider charging for no-shows or dismissing patients for no-shows.

90.  Have a good recall system in place.  If patients leave without scheduling a needed follow-up, make sure that they are called if they have not scheduled within a certain amount of time.  Keep track of annual wellness visits and remind patients to schedule them.

91.  Take advantage of any discounts offered by your malpractice carrier by completing risk management surveys and having speakers give annual updates on decreasing malpractice claims.  Some carriers give discounts for managers who are members of MGMA or Fellows in the ACMPE.

92.  Evaluate any discounts on services or products offered by your physicians’ professional associations and societies.

93.  Evaluate your leases – are those big old copiers and faxes worth paying for a service contract?

94.  Consider speech recognition/voice recognition and eliminate transcription.

95.  Review your computer maintenance contracts. Are you paying for maintenance on equipment or software that is no longer being used?

96.  Take advantage of online CME for physicians, midlevel providers, clinical staff and managers.

97.  Make plans to attend face-to-face seminars well in advance to take advantage of early enrollment discounts and good flight deals.

98.  Evaluate outsourcing. Think about outsourcing transcription, coding, billing, pre-authorizations, credentialing, switchboard, payroll, accounting and medical records copying.

99.  Replace your answering service with an answering machine educating patients on the limited reasons for calling after hours and giving the number of the physician on call.

100. Destroy archived financial and medical records that you are paying to store, once you have ascertained that they exceed the required time limit.

101.  Hold a brainstorming session with the staff and ask for their ideas for increasing revenue and reducing expenses.  The people on the front lines will have excellent ideas.  In return, do not nickle and dime the staff to death by charging for coffee, reducing parking stipends or eliminating uniform allowances.  Keep in mind that for your rank and file staff, having to pay for their own uniforms or paying more for parking might be a deal-breaker that causes them to search for work elsewhere.  Try to focus on the bigger items for savings and make sure the staff know you are trying to keep their small benefits in place in appreciation for their work.

Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations, Electronic Medical Records, Finance, Medicare & Reimbursement

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