Health IT Thought Leader Highlight: Lindy Benton, MEA|NEA
Lindy Benton, CEO of MEA|NEA, has worked in the healthcare information technology for more than 20 years. Before joining MEA|NEA, Lindy served as divisional executive at Sage Healthcare, managing 1,400 employees, and prior to that she worked at Cerner for 15 years. MEA|NEA has nearly 20 years’ experience in providing revenue cycle enhancement solutions for payers and providers, as well as managing the secure exchange of health information, providing critical functionality to payers, medical and dental providers and other agents. Its solutions facilitate secure electronic requests for medical records and documentation to connected network providers for payment integrity, risk adjustment, audit tracking, performance/quality measures, claim attachments and more. Similarly, its technology enables providers to gain productivity via the electronic capture, storage and submissions of healthcare documentation – and to more effectively manage their revenue cycle and reduce claim denials.
Here she speaks about MEA|NEA, electronic attachments and secure health information exchange, how MEA|NEA serves healthcare and some of the most pressing issues facing healthcare’s leaders today.
Tell me more about yourself and your role at MEA|NEA.
I have worked in the healthcare information technology for more than 20 years. I am currently the CEO of MEA|NEA, a provider of electronic attachment and health information exchange solution.
Who uses the company’s products, and how are they enhancing their health systems and practices?
We have three major client sets. One is providers. They represent the point of origin for most medical records. One is payers or managed care organizations. They are often the requestors of medical record information about the members enrolled in one of their health plans. And the third we call partners who are those organizations who sit in-between the originators of medical record information and the requestors of medical record information. The enhancements you ask about are intuitive and real. We enhance the exchange of medical record protected health information – or phi – by making it 100 percent electronic, trackable and auditable.
In what ways is MEA|NEA evolving and where are you seeing the most change, the most rapidly?
With the increased focus on outcomes in healthcare in America, we are seeing an increase in the demand for medical record reviews. We see this increasingly being driven by the federal government, but the commercial sector is also participating. There are companies whose sole purpose is to audit the care being provided to patient populations and the reimbursement of charges related to that care. “Payment integrity” is commonly referenced in the industry today, and that wasn’t the case until recently. We are leading in process efficiencies to support these changes.
Tell me more about your involvement with CMS. How have the company and its strategy changed since the adoption of electronic claims submission through Medicare?
In January 2012 we began delivering medical records to Medicare contractors as one of a few organizations certified by CMS to do so. Today there are 23 certified organizations and we are the largest serving the acute-care hospitals of the nation. We are the 2nd largest overall. Since 2012 we have been selected by four organizations who are listed on the www.cms.gov website as their technology partner. We have a strong relationship with key leaders inside of CMS and we plan to continue to invest there. With 15 percent of US healthcare being tied to Medicare, this is a key component of our future in the medical marketplace.
Dental has historically been the company’s sweet spot where the claims attachment technology has been used successfully for years. Are you serving clients in that space similarly to how you are now in healthcare with the same features and functionality? Are there synergies across the two areas; how are you working them together?
The basic business processes involving delivery of services, documentation of services, and filing claims for reimbursement are more similar than they are different between dental and medical. We do support two platforms for the two markets, but they are 90 percent the same. When we develop something for one market, that gives us the opportunity to make it available to the other, and that does happen from time to time. So, yes there are some clear synergies.
How does the company serve the healthcare market; what are your offerings and what role do they play in the healthcare technology space?
We are experts in the electronic exchange of unstructured health information. It is simple, but is powerful in driving efficiencies.
How has MEA|NEA’s push into healthcare gone since you began to target this market? Tell me more about the market and what you’re seeing there that may surprise you, if anything.
Not unlike dental in the 1990s, the great challenge is adoption. We often reference the Alexander Graham Bell problem of selling the first telephone. That was probably difficult since the value proposition could not be realized without at least two parties adopting the telephone. And then the value was limited to only one relationship. Once 50 or 100 people in a community had phones, the value went through the roof for everyone. We, and the industry, are in the early stages of telephone adoption. It is slow, but it is moving, and unusually the government, with esMD, is actually ahead of much of the commercial sector.
Where is the company — which is made up of two brands — going and what do you see on the horizon?
We will increasingly automate many of the transactions that rely on humans today. We have the data, both structured (like denial codes from payers) and unstructured (much of the data in provider/patient EHRs) and with MEA|NEA business rules engines, we can perform in seconds what takes days and weeks in existing processes today. It is exciting to lead the market into this highly automated space. We realize we are working on the “last mile” of paper still stuck in the healthcare ecosystem revenue cycle. It is a small percentage of the whole, but it still creates about a billion pieces of paper a year that slows and hurts the whole system.
What are some of the most pressing issues, in your opinion, facing healthcare’s leaders today? How do you see that changing?
There has been a major shift toward transparency in the marketplace, and that supports consumer- (or patient) driven care in a way never seen in the US before. Those organizations that adopt, embrace and leverage transparency will end up surviving and thriving. It will take another decade or so for standards to emerge and be fully adopted, but you will see patients as more and more active in care decisions in US healthcare in the future. And that is a good thing.