Delivering high-quality health care to patients becomes more challenging every day. With new insurance mandates and skyrocketing expenses (for patients and providers), health care business offices must learn how to navigate today’s ever-changing landscape.
Below are some of the key challenges facing medical back offices (and how to overcome them):
1. Storage Constraints
Investing in better storage is the low-hanging fruit of health care delivery. If you’re still using floor-based cabinets to hold patient files, you’re making sub-optimal use of limited real estate.
This is especially true if your clinic’s back office is hosted on-site.
Wall-mounted storage allows you to free up more office space for value-adding tools and equipment. Done correctly, you might even be able to create an additional examination room, allowing your team to see more patients per hour.
2. Data Security & Patient Privacy
Electronic health records (EHRs) represent the ultimate “space-saving” strategy. Digitizing files removes the need to manage paper-based patient records at all. But EHRs also expose you to a number of privacy-related risks. Worse still, local servers can cost upwards of $40K (not including the extra IT professionals you must bring in to set up and maintain your system).
One popular solution is cloud-based storage. Outsourcing data security is both cheaper and simpler to set up. And because reputable Web-based servers use bank-level encryption, achieving HIPAA compliance is actually much easier.
3. Delayed, Denied or Missing Payments
If you have an accounts receivable backlog of denied claims, missing invoices or delayed payments, you’re not alone. Even before the Affordable Care Act, chasing down patients and insurance companies was a full-time job. But now that the mandates have gone into effect, the paperwork and delays have become even worse. The end result is higher costs for medical providers, and thus, inferior treatment for patients.
But just as you can outsource record-keeping, you can also hand off accounts receivable to companies that specialize in payment delivery. These “extended business offices” (EBOs) offer a number of important benefits:
- They already have working relationships with insurance providers and financial institutions.
- They already have systems and protocols in place — specifically designed to collect missing health care payments or resolve denied claims.
However, the biggest benefit is that your team can focus on more important tasks while the EBO works out the kinks and wrinkles of Obamacare.
On the surface, these no-shows aren’t a major issue. After all, patients still get charged if they don’t cancel with advance notice. But according to some estimates, missed appointments cost the U.S. health care system more than $150 billion annually. And this doesn’t even factor in the opportunity cost for patients who could have been treated had they known of the vacancy.
Below are two affordable tactics for reducing no-shows:
- Have patients schedule their own appointments (in writing). This is actually a “front-office” procedure, but it can reduce wasted appointments by as much as 18 percent.
- According to the American Journal of Medicine, using follow-up reminders is one of the most effective strategies for reducing no-shows. Automated reminders work pretty well, but personalized phone calls from staff members yield the best results.
Competitive Advantage or Business Necessity?
Despite unprecedented medical breakthroughs, providing quality care is becoming more difficult — not easier. Clinics that successfully overcome the above challenges will enjoy a major competitive advantage over those that don’t. But as the medical landscape continues to evolve rapidly, these strategies won’t simply be an advantage — they’ll become business necessities.
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