Is Mobile Texting a Do or a Don't in the Healthcare Environment?
From employees texting bosses to business owners texting customers, many of the unwritten rules and tentative boundaries that once defined who, and what, accounted for “appropriate” texting behavior have largely fallen away. Overall, that’s a welcome development for most folks who find the convenience, clarity, and quickness of texting preferable to voice-to-voice conversation.
But the healthcare system is a somewhat different story. Mobile texting’s rise in the world of hospitals, medical offices, and medical billing companies has been shakier than in many other industries, thanks to valid, worthwhile concerns over patient privacy and the sensitive nature of healthcare information at large.
Even if your healthcare establishment has a highly limited relationship with texting (i.e., it’s “frowned upon,” or only used for patient reminders and alerts), it’s worth revisiting what is, and isn’t, ok when it comes to texting among doctors, patients, and staff. Keep the following tips in mind whenever you unlock your smartphone to ping someone in your medical practice’s orbit.
Patients or Payers – Which Come First at Your Practice?
A high-functioning medical establishment – like any other business – should ideally operate like a well-oiled machine. Your office policies should be clearly defined, your staff should be trained to follow them, and your employees should be motivated to execute their responsibilities in line with expectations.
And nowhere should those expectations be more clearly defined than when it comes to dealing with insurers. Ever-changing and illogical as they sometimes may be, payers have nothing but medical billing rules. Working with payers successfully requires your practice to adhere to rigid guidelines, so making sure your staff knows, understands, and follows those guidelines is vital to your bottom line.
Maintaining and enforcing office-wide policies about payers’ is undoubtedly a huge part of your HR program. But what happens when payer rules collide with patient care?
Is Medicare Going Broke? 3 Trends to Watch
When President Johnson signed Medicare into law on June 30, 1965, he said: "If it has a few defects, I am confident those can be quickly remedied." Quickly is a relative term… but more than fifty years later, more than a few defects remain.
The death knell and possibility for Medicare going broke and its sister program, Medicaid, has been sounded regularly for decades by politicians, government entities, and special interest groups alike. Their claims that Medicare is headed for bankruptcy are largely overblown, but they’re not entirely without merit: Healthcare spending overall has decreased in recent years, but in 2014 Medicare spent over $613 billion to cover care for 54 million beneficiaries. Projections of Medicare costs are highly uncertain, especially when looking out more than several decades, so it’s likely that the program will continue to eat up an ever greater portion of the federal budget and the economy.
Even more concerning may be the structural flaws leading the program to misallocate and misuse funds. A recent Government Accountability Office report found that $60 billion (10 percent of Medicare's budget) was lost to waste, fraud, abuse or improper payments in 2014.
Beyond that misspent 10 percent, however, what’s plaguing the Medicare program moving forward? What forces will have the greatest impact on Medicare’s solvency in 2016 and beyond? For any healthcare group, revenue cycle management entity, medical billing company, or Medicare-covered patient interested in the future of the program, these are the top issues to keep an eye on.
Open enrollment is Upon Us. How Should You Handle It With Patients?
Open enrollment is upon us once again. How can two simple words create so much complexity?
Every November-December, medical practices, insurance companies, patients, and medical billing services face down healthcare’s least favorite season - and every year it seems to get more challenging for all parties involved. Just how challenging? In a recent survey of 400 adults who purchase their own health insurance, ConnectedHealth found that more than half of those polled felt choosing a health plan was more complicated than solving Rubik’s Cube.
Depending on their employer coverage or familiarity with the Affordable Care Act and the state and national healthcare exchanges, your patients may see your practice as their only resource for navigating the complexity of open enrollment. But given that patients and providers have far different financial concerns, that’s a tricky spot for practices to find themselves in. What should, and shouldn’t, you say?
The key to assisting your patient base through the open enrollment rigmarole (without compromising your ethics) is to stick to providing fact-driven information, and to stop short of telling patients which plans to pick. Here’s what we suggest:
Fee-for-Service / Private-Pay: Physicians Grapple With Changing Models
From low reimbursements to high deductibles to non-paying patients, doctors and medical practice managers have plenty to be frustrated about when it comes to the business of healthcare. Yet interestingly, their chief complaint has little do with earning less money than they deserve – it has to do with the trouble they go to in order to get it.
Vendor Allies: The Partners Who Help You Optimize Payment Performance
Amid dwindling reimbursements, ICD-10 challenges, and the rise of high-deductible health plans, medical practices are increasingly pulling away from payers. Some are switching to concierge care, others are testing the waters with self-pay patients and rate-card pricing, but almost all physicians and medical practice managers are expressing frustration at the changing healthcare landscape.
The challenges of working with insurers are well-documented, and many of the practices trying new approaches to payment are doing so with success. But what’s a practice to do if it’s not interested in changing its model? Cutting payers out of the revenue cycle is a non-starter for many traditional medical practices and healthcare groups – especially those with small or aging patient populations.
How do you optimize revenue without making a major change to the structure of your medical practice? By leveraging the power of vendor allies.
How to Keep High-Deductible Health Plans from Hurting Your Revenue
Since the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the rise of high-deductible health plans has shown no sign of stopping. As patients increasingly purchase low-cost, high-deductible coverage from their national or state healthcare exchanges, practices have had to face the issue head on – deciding up front which plans to accept, which to turn away, and how to handle the overall impact on patient relations.
The bright side: 17 million more Americans are insured now than were pre-ACA, meaning your potential patient base is larger than ever. But due to the higher costs they face, high-deductible patients are far less likely than employer-covered ones to actually pursue care, follow through on treatment plans, and return for follow-up visits.
As such, it’s vital for your practice to take a proactive approach to patient awareness and education in order to seize your share of the newly-covered-patient market without hurting your income. Here are some of our recommendations as a medical billing company to help you embrace the high-deductible reality.
ICD-10 Deployment Takes Off! 3 Key Issues to Watch Out For
After years of postponements and preparations, the vastly expanded coding methodology known as ICD-10 is officially, actively in play for medical practices across the U.S. Like other highly publicized calendar dates (Y2K comes to mind) the October 1, 2015 ICD-10 deployment date came and went without a major glitch, and even the groups most vehemently opposed to ICD-10’s government-mandated implementation have been mostly silent in the weeks since.
Yet as a medical billing company we know that just because the transition has so far gone smoothly doesn’t mean the ICD-10 struggle is over. Medical practices are still experiencing an adjustment period, as billers and coders get familiar with the new code set and doctors and medical practice managers await its impact on their reimbursements.
As the repercussions of ICD-10 begin reverberating through the U.S. healthcare system, here are the top issues we’ll be keeping an eye on. (If you’re worried ICD-10 will take a bite out of your income stream, contact a medical billing service to see how they can help you avoid potential problems.)
Best Practices for Better A/R Management
With ICD-10 finally upon us, it’s time to face the consequences. Some predict the impact will hit claim's denial rates the hardest, with jumps as high as 50-100% estimated in the early days of the transition.
As such, there’s no better time to get your Accounts Receivable in order. Capture more of what you earn by making sure to follow these two best practices.
3 Surprising Ways to Put Data to Work for Your Medical Practice
To keep the wheels turning at your practice, you periodically review reports on many different aspects of your operations: patient encounters and no-shows; per-provider performance metrics; revenue cycle effectiveness. If you’re like most doctors and medical practice management, you review your data with a dual mindset: a reflective approach (“How did we do last quarter?”) and eye for improvement (“Let’s do 10% better this time.”)
Of course, that’s what you should do... but it’s not ALL you should do.
Whether you’re running a group practice or a single-practitioner practice, your front- and back-office operations produce a wealth of useful data that you’re likely not utilizing to full advantage. Try these three techniques, then get creative to see what other applications you can come up with.