Automate processes at your practice to increase value

 In Articles, Provider Notes

By Lee Katherine Ayer, MHA
Revenue Cycle Analyst, MSOC Health

Today, more than ever, people have the ability to automate the dull tasks of daily living, so there is more time to spend on activities of value. Bills can be set to autopay, so you can spend the evening with your family instead of hunched over a checkbook or laptop. Even dog food can be autoshipped, so you can take Fido on a hike on Saturday morning instead of schlepping to the pet store because there’s no more kibble. The benefits of automation in your personal life are clear to see, so why spend so much time on repetitive, manual tasks in your professional life? It feels like “work,” but that doesn’t mean it is valuable.

Many have already seen the benefits of front-end automation like batch eligibility checks and automated appointment reminders, but there are opportunities at every stage of the revenue cycle. One area that MSOC Health has been tackling for clients recently is improved utilization of electronic remittance advice (ERA) and electronic funds transfer (EFT). It’s a no brainer to set up electronic data interchange (EDI) for major payers like Medicare and Blue Cross, but what about the dozens of smaller payers and third-party administrators that patients come in with?

For MSOC clients — and I’m betting this is true for most practices — we found that we were spending a disproportionate amount of time processing stacks of paper Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) for relatively tiny checks from these miscellaneous payers. The ROI and opportunity cost of the time, energy and labor expense spent on this process is unjustifiably low. The only steps in the reimbursement process that truly add value to your business are 1) when the payer decides to reimburse you for services and 2) when the money goes into your bank account. Everything else is waste and extra processing. By taking the time to enroll in ERA and EFT for as many payers as possible, you let the clearinghouse and banks do all the processing for you. Not only will you get paid faster, you will free up valuable time and brainpower for your staff.

Speaking of brainpower, data analysis is one of the most critical activities in revenue cycle management today and represents another opportunity to automate. MSOC has built a robust portfolio of automated reporting tools that automatically compile at the end of each month. These reports show a snapshot of a client’s financial health at the end of each month, but more importantly they are programmed to stack against previous reports to show monthly and yearly trends in key areas of the revenue cycle. The value of reporting is in thoughtful analysis, development of action items and targets for improvement. The more time you spend manually pulling or building reports each month, the less time you have to spend acting on the information you find.

Fully leverage the power of automation

Put a proper system in place. It’s important to invest time and energy to map your processes, identify key steps and tasks and design the automation. The startup effort will be significant, and you will probably have to work closely with your IT professionals. But once a new system is in place, you should be able to easily verify that it is working correctly. In the example of autopaying your bills, all you have to know is your estimated income and expenses to quickly recognize a problem, simply by checking if the funds in your account match your expectations at the end of the month.

Be vigilant with your software vendors. Ask about opportunities for custom programming when selecting new vendors. If you find yourself saying, “Shouldn’t the system be able to…?” – say something! It is your responsibility to hold vendors accountable for staying competitive and meeting your needs. We all spend time devising dozens of tiny manual workarounds for “flaws in the system,” but the technology should be working for you, not the other way around.

Talk to each other! Reach out to colleagues in local and national professional organizations. Someone always knows a better way to do something, and copying is not cheating. Seek out the thought leaders and best in class, and find a way to make their solutions work for you. One of the most exciting and unique things about working at MSOC Health is the opportunity to help clients learn from each other.

The next time you find yourself dreading a repetitive task at work, think about a way that you could automate that process. Then make it happen. If you need help, MSOC Health is here. Contact us at info@msochealth.com.

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