Think about the last time you had to take your car to the mechanic. You might not have agreed with the amount of work they said needed to be done or felt that they were charging you for some extra, not-really-necessary services, but they probably gave you a repair quote up front? And if they found something else during their process that needed to be fixed, they likely called you to tell you about it and how much it would cost?
When it comes to healthcare, patients expect their doctor will not try to run an extra test or do an extra procedure if it is not necessary. But when they come in for a visit, they are likely to find their physicians are not nearly as upfront about how much they must pay for treatment. Thus, patients sometimes find themselves stuck with a bigger bill than they bargained for.
Why is the situation so different when it comes to billing for healthcare versus almost any other service? It’s complicated, partly because there are so many factors at play and costs can vary by insurer, deductible, location, and other reasons. Fortunately, there is a way to make this experience easier on your ASC as well as your patients: technology.
Leveraging technology is vitally important to the entire revenue cycle in many ways. Here are three of the most significant ways it makes the payment and billing process more manageable.
- Technology improves patient experience and engagement. Patients are beginning to expect cost transparency in their medical services, much like they would from an auto mechanic in the scenario outlined above. This patient expectation is a deviation from the past. Real-time electronic insurance eligibility verification can provide this information — or, at the very least, a valid estimate — which leads to a higher likelihood of patients paying their bills and to higher patient satisfaction, both of which directly impact revenue in the value-based healthcare system. User-friendly patient engagement tools that allow for digital updates on medical billing and services further drives that value by providing timely information through mobile apps and online portals.
Interoperability boosts speed and efficiency. Two words: connected data. The more open and interoperable your data system is, the easier it will be to quickly pull the information you need, when you need it, for whatever reason. You need data from other healthcare providers when you’re coordinating patient care and don’t want to order tests and procedures already performed. You need data from insurers when you’re figuring out net revenue from patient visits.
There’s lots of different kinds of data you must reference, and you need to be able to have a free exchange of information between key players throughout a patient’s care in order to make the process flow smoothly, which also impacts managing your revenue cycle.
- Automation helps streamline everything. There are many components of the revenue cycle that are repetitive. Fortunately, technology means some of these simple functions and tasks can be automated — eliminating some or even all of the manpower needed to do them, and any errors that often come with the human touch. Things like scheduling, benefits verification, and claims submission can all be performed electronically and automatically. It’s kind of like magic, but it’s really technology.
Healthcare for the 21st Century
U.S. healthcare and medical expense policies date back to the 1920s, but that doesn’t mean the processes need to stay in the 20th century. Nearly 100 years later, the system is ripe for some major changes, and these are some of the big ones that available technology is ready to take on.