Even with electronic decision-support technology and responsive, knowledge-based medical software built into modern electronic health care record (EHR) systems, it is critical for physicians and clinicians to recognize the primary focus is still treating the patient. In an effort to survive escalating costs of care and declining reimbursements, modern health care delivery models shifted from a patient-centric care model toward a financially motivated business model.
With the push toward value-based reimbursements and rigorous quality measurement reporting mandates, hospitals and medical organizations today must balance the need to remain financially solvent with improving patient outcomes and experiences throughout the health care journey.
Business Process Outsourcing: Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) and Value-Based Care
End-to-end RCM in the healthcare industry explores cost per transaction beyond salaries and benefit packages. Administrators examine productivity volumes, idle time, workforce utilization ratios and patient flow as key factors that directly influence revenue potential.
Business process outsourcing (BPO) has gained popularity in recent years as a way for hospitals and practices to control operating costs without compromising patient care or satisfaction levels. It is a win-win proposition for all stakeholders. The RCM software and services market, which includes BPO, now garners more than $12 million, annually. There are many reasons to consider BPO, including streamlining internal efficiency, expediting third-party payer reimbursements, and reducing data entry errors that stifle cash flow and frustrate consumers.
Analytics, Document Management and BPO
Improving document management is critical. Leading technology enables collecting vast amounts of data, data that can be used to improve patient outcomes, and financial performance. However, data is only valuable if it can be rapidly accessed, analyzed, organized and converted into actionable information. Digital Documents, which is a company that provides outsourced document management services, says document processing services essentially convert information to digital assets.
Those assets may translate into higher profit margins. One study showed hospitals that outsourced most of their RCM operations in 2014 saw an average revenue increase of 5 percent to slightly more than 6 percent. Revenue increases are expected to continue to grow over the next few years, especially in the health IT outsourcing area, which according to Reportstack should see an annual compounded growth rate of almost 9 percent through 2019.
In the following conversation, Jim Lacy, CFO and general counsel of ZirMed, discusses the company’s mission, goals and growth; his passion for healthcare and serving those who work in it; ZirMed’s transition from a clearinghouse to a revenue cycle management, population health and predictive analytics firm; why privacy has become the biggest issue very few are seriously talking about; and the changing face of healthcare as a whole.
Tell me more about ZirMed, the brand, its solutions, and your mission for it.
Our core mission is to help healthcare providers, hospitals and health systems get paid. It sounds simple, but efficiently and effectively getting providers paid for their services and supporting their mission in an ever-evolving technological, regulatory, and clinical environment is incredibly complex.
ZirMed is uniquely positioned to deliver a comprehensive end-to-end platform of cloud-based financial and clinical performance management solutions. That means that at every point in the revenue cycle, we have solutions that support healthcare providers in collecting monies from payers and patients, and do it as quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively as possible. Our solutions address the challenges of the current fee-for-service and consumer-driven payment systems, and also support fee-for-value reimbursement, broadly defined as population health management.
ZirMed’s solutions are logically oriented to address the revenue cycle needs of providers ranging from small physician practices and durable medical equipment providers to the largest hospitals and health systems. At the front end, we offer Patient Access solutions focused on registration and check-in to streamline pre-registration, estimate patient responsibility, accurately verify eligibility, and more.
Core to our mission of getting hospitals and health systems paid for services provided is our Charge Integrity solution. We use big-data and predictive analytics to identify and capture charges, resolve process inefficiencies, improve coding compliance, and ensure the complete integrity of all inpatient and outpatient billing.
Our claims and A/R management solutions include robust edits and rules aggregating claims across an entire system, and provide highly efficient claims and receivables workflows, reduce preventable denials, and deliver insights into financial performance for critical decision support.
With the ability to process vast amounts of data and provider metrics across an organization, our cost and utilization solutions benchmark provider performance, stratify risk, and support fee-for-value reimbursement programs.
Population health management has come to hold very different meanings across different organizations. Our population risk management solutions combine clinical and financial information, enabling insights into patient populations while identifying risk, analyzing discharges for readmission risks, and managing referrals across an integrated system.
And, of course, healthcare is always about the patients. We offer a comprehensive suite of Patient Engagement solutions including consumer-friendly billing and payment options and a patient portal offering online payment, statement management, and two-way messaging between the patient and provider.
What about you? What keeps your passion for this mission, and organization, alive? Tell me more about what excites you about your work and why you love what you do?
I love what I do, and couldn’t design a better job for myself than this one: I get to be a CFO, counsel and influence product design, all within the course of a normal day.
My roles are seemingly very different and one person holding them is rather non-traditional; however, there is logic to the fit. ZirMed develops financially focused software solutions in a highly regulated healthcare environment. We deal with billions of transactions and hundreds of billions of dollars annually with an extreme focus on privacy, security and compliancy. My background from the provider side of healthcare prior to joining ZirMed directly influences the types of solutions we build and how we deploy them to positively impact provider organizations.
Ric Sinclair, our VP of product, and his team excel at designing and delivering great software that’s beautiful, powerful, and easy to use. Their role is to take all this complexity and make it as simple and easy as possible for users and managers in client organizations. My role is to weave my experiences into the design of our products and support the role of the client in everything we build.
So I’m doing what I love and working with incredibly smart, talented people every day. That makes it easy to stay passionate and excited about my work and about ZirMed.
One of the greatest sources of information that depicts the changes in health IT trends across the industry landscape is from Michael Lake, healthcare technology strategist. Through his monthly reports on the state of health technology, published by his company Circle Square, he provides succinct highlights from throughout the last month. Possibly, what’s best about these reports is that they cover such a diverse segment of the ecosphere.
For example, in one of his most recent reports, the focus was the EHR vendor sphere, cloud EHRs and their importance to independent practices, the use of faxes in hospitals, vendor news and transactions and practice portal insight, among other news.
According to his most recent report, cloud-based EHRs with integrated billing are quickly becoming a key to a practice’s future success as an independent practice. In his report, he cites Black Book as ranking solutions that seamlessly integrate electronic health records (EHR), revenue cycle management (RCM) and practice management (PM). Kareo tops on the list, per KLAS.
However, most practices feel that billing and collections systems and processes need upgrading (87%) and more than 40 percent (42%) are considering an upgrade to RCM software in in the next year . Most practices (71%) are considering a combo of new software and outsourcing services for improvement.
Guest post by Rick Little, vice president of Client Services, MedAptus.
Revenue cycle management. Right now you’re probably thinking this term sounds like some fancy business school jargon, so why should you care about it? Isn’t that an accounting issue? What does it have to do with healthcare IT?
Well, a lot actually. Applying health IT resources to revenue cycle management processes is a must-do now as the Affordable Care Act, Meaningful Use and the looming ICD-10 transition swing into full gear. In fact, now more than ever, technology solutions are needed to drive correct coding and billing compliance for an optimized revenue cycle. Without it, your organization will struggle into 2014 and beyond.
Here’s a quick look at how charge capture and management software helped The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center prepare technologically and financially for all that the ACA, ICD-10 and other initiatives may bring.
More than eight years ago MD Anderson identified electronic charge capture as a technology capable of providing financial, administrative, and compliance improvements. MD Anderson Cancer Center is part of the University of Texas system and located in the heart of the Texas Medical Center. One of the largest employers in Houston, MD Anderson has more than 18,000 employees including more than 1,400 physicians, and served nearly 110,000 patients in 2011.
Back in 2004, when the organization identified improving its revenue cycle management as an initiative, here are some of the challenges it faced:
A huge sprawling campus
An in-house developed Electronic Health Record (EHR)
Old legacy systems for scheduling and billing
Limited use of order entry
Beyond automating and streamlining physician charge capture processes, MD Anderson also required its chosen software solution to integrate with its EHR, link together numerous legacy systems and drive reconciliation improvements across its many clinical areas.
MD Anderson began using charge capture and management technology from Boston-based MedAptus with 50 physicians piloting the company’s mobile Professional Charge Capture (Pro) in early 2005. After initial pilot results that demonstrated improved revenue and decreased charge lag, MD Anderson implemented MedAptus’ use across its entire enterprise. Today, more than 1,300 clinicians utilize Pro for their professional charge capture and management.
Since MD Anderson began using charge capture technology, many improvements have evolved out of their implementation. These include:
EHR Charge Entry
A vital component of the charge capture deployment at MD Anderson is integration with the hospital’s proprietary EHR, Clinic Station. Working together, MD Anderson and MedAptus created an interface directly within the EHR allowing providers to easily complete charging and charting tasks via a single sign-on and with the preservation of patient context between the two systems. This real-time, simultaneous entry has reduced errors, improved compliance, decreased time-to-billing and driven personal efficiencies.
Inpatient consultation charges
As MD Anderson evaluated areas for improvement within its revenue cycle processes, inpatient consultation charges stood out as an area for review. To improve capture here, a new interface from the consult scheduling system capable of creating consult visits within MedAptus was implemented. As a result, consult charge opportunities can now be consistently capitalized on by providers and MD Anderson is able to reconcile for anything that may have been missed for appropriate follow-up.
In looking for help with charge reconciliation, MD Anderson needed a solution that provided support staff with full transparency of activity. In general, this staff consists of those tasked with reconciliation and those responsible for charge accuracy (typically coders). Regardless of organizational role, using MedAptus, staff are able to view the number of charges expected, submitted and missing at the provider, specialty and location level. They can also view the status of submitted charges as they are worked and approved by the coder group. Coders leverage the almost one million rules embedded within the MedAptus application which include Medicare edits, NCDs and LCDs as well as MedAptus proprietary and custom rules.
Once charges have been submitted for back-office review, the MedAptus configuration at MD Anderson allows charges to be “stamped” with specific data elements that are important to financial reporting across the MD Anderson enterprise. Prior to MedAptus, administrative staff needed to manually designate fields such as billing areas or revenue centers. Charge management automation has led to better staff productivity and increased accuracy of revenue reporting around this task.
Given all of the areas along the revenue cycle that charge capture and management technology can impact … still wondering why enhancing revenue cycle management processes is an IT challenge?
Rick Little is responsible for the implementation of software products and ongoing customer support services at MedAptus, including the implementation of MedAptus’ software solution at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.