Quick and Painless: Electronic Medical Billing

Guest post by Kristen Gramigna, chief marketing officer, BluePay.

Kristen Gramigna
Kristen Gramigna

Replacing a hard copy-based billing system with one that is electronic can help your healthcare organization realize the operational efficiencies, cost reduction and expedited accounts receivable rates that are critical to financial stability in healthcare. Here’s a look at the benefits of electronic medical billing, and why making a switch may not be as complicated or costly to your organization as it may seem.

Patient perception is critical to your organization’s survival. Though health care spending is projected to increase by an annual average of 4.4 percent from 2013 to 2017 in America, more insured Americans and an aging population mean that competition for patients is fierce. Patients have a choice when it comes to where they invest their health care dollars. Their brand perception of a health care organization is no less important than their perception of any branded service or packaged good.

In a recent Accenture survey, healthcare CEOs echoed their acknowledgement of this new industry reality: Nearly half of those surveyed ranked patient satisfaction as a top business priority for their organization in the next three years. Though employing reputable medical professionals, offering quality facilities and communicating a memorable brand message are important, the many interactions a patient has with the health care organization (including scheduling, medical care providers and billing departments) all shape their perception, which ultimately impacts the organization’s reputation.

Electronic billing is one simple way to enhance the odds that patients have the positive experience that leads to retention and referral to friends and family. In one study by TransUnion Healthcare, the impact that medical billing has on patient perception in both front-office and back-office functions was made clear. In that study, 85 percent of respondents who had a negative billing experience with a medical provider rated their overall experience with the organization as negative. Conversely, 80 percent who reported a high level of satisfaction with a healthcare provider and/or organization also had a positive billing experience.

Billing inefficiency carries a billion-dollar price tag. If your organization has failed to adopt an electronic billing system because of concerns with the costs and potential risks in implementation, the more important question may be whether it can afford not to leverage electronic billing. In a New York Times op-ed piece, healthcare policy expert Ezekiel J. Emanuel estimated that administration costs in the healthcare industry at large amount to about $360 billion per year; half of those costs are attributed to billing waste, including paper-based record keeping, processing and redundancy associated with paper forms. In one Black Book case study called “Top Physician Practice Management & Revenue Cycle Management: Ambulatory EHR Vendors” conducted among healthcare financial leaders, respondents indicated that the cost of moving to an electronic billing system was quickly offset by its benefits. According to the study findings, 81 percent of respondents were able to realize “basic and intermediate efficiencies” that resulted in a measurable return on investment within six months of implementation; 94 percent said they realized ROI benefits after one year.

Reimbursement standards are hindering profitability. Billing and reimbursement policies mandated by insurers have become increasingly stringent and cumbersome, eroding profitability for health care organizations. In fact, 72 percent of health care financial leaders who responded to the Black Book case study said they expect “declining-to-negative profitability in 2014” as a result of reduced reimbursement and inefficient billing technology. Though your organization may not be able to control all aspects of such standards and policies, electronic billing can reduce the potential for process-related errors that ultimately lead to lost revenue.

Electronic billing is now turnkey. Like all innovations, electronic billing in the health care industry has moved well past the point of infancy in the product life cycle that created implementation challenges, resulting in less turnkey solutions than some of the early electronic billing providers promised. Evidenced by the consolidation that has taken place among electronic health records (EHR), electronic billing and practice management providers, those that remain are now equipped to deliver real efficiencies that make a measureable impact and immediate cost reduction for an organization.

For example, 94 percent of respondents to the Black Book study noted improved productivity and workflow within six months of implementing an electronic billing system. In tandem with the accessibility that cloud-based technologies now deliver to both desktop and mobile device users, electronic billing systems are cost-efficient, customizable, and easily integrated with all facets of a medical practice’s internal administrative functions, in addition to addressing patient-facing benefits, including choice of payment options, expedited invoice delivery and payment convenience.

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