Team PracticeForces on Nov 15 2008
The search for billing and coding gold
Today, as legalistic coding rules have taken root and payers have gotten stingier, collecting what you’re owed requires fighting a battle on two fronts: the draconian payers on one front — and patients on the other.
You need the latest tools and tactics just to avoid losing ground in this struggle. You can’t afford to keep doing things “the old way.” Accordingly, we’ve asked a coterie of practice-management consultants and administrators for advanced tips on getting what you’ve earned
Notebooks out, pencils sharpened. Class is in session.
You’ve heard this advice before:
To ensure a clean claim, collect the patient’s demographic and insurance information before the visit. Practices have traditionally done that over the phone or by mailing patients the usual registration forms for them to complete and return. To take this advice up one notch, post those forms on your practice Web site, assuming you have one (and you should). Patients can print out and complete the forms and then mail or fax them in advance of their visit.
Better yet, enable your Web site to allow patients to complete the forms and transmit them to you electronically (using encryption). Or use waiting-room kiosks to capture the information, rather than handing patients a stack of forms and a pen. Handwritten forms are sometimes illegible, causing staffers to enter inaccurate data that leads to claim denials. At four-physician Northern Virginia Family Practice Associates in Alexandria, almost 100 percent of new patients register online. “Our errors have gone down and our revenue has gone up” since the practice made the switch, says administrator Mary Dooher.
Employees type in the online data just as they would working with a hard copy. What’s more efficient is a Web site that sends registration information straight into your practice management system withoutrekeying (although you should review it beforehand for accuracy). The major physician connectivity companies — Medfusion, Medem, and RelayHealth — offer such software integration.
Another advantage of computerized registration — whether it’s done on a practice Web site or a waiting-room kiosk — is that you can structure the form so the patient can’t proceed unless he fills in all the blanks. “Patients will skip half the questions if you let them,” says Beth McGinnis, the billing and IT manager for the 120-doctor Iowa Clinic in Des Moines, which has installed kiosks in half of its waiting rooms.
And make sure you’re capturing all the information you need, including patients’ cell phone numbers, says practice management consultant Deborah Walker Keegan. After all, almost 70 percents of adults polled online recently by Harris Interactive reported that they have both a cell and a land line. (Some have only cell phones.) “If you can’t reach them about a past-due balance on the land line, try the cell,” says Keegan, coauthor of “The Physician Billing Process.” Also, you can contact patients during their 9-to-5 jobs on their cells instead of waiting to call their landlines at night, although Keegan suggests getting their approval beforehand to ring their cell.
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