American hospitals, medical practices, government health agencies and insurers spend around $360 billion per year on administrative expenses. That exorbitant amount is made up in large part by the costs of billing-related functions.
High administrative costs make it more difficult than ever to sustain a private medical office, yet are commonly written off as a necessary, compulsory part of the typical practice budget.
The processes used to execute billing tasks are expensive and outdated, but the paper forms and departmental structures they involve are so ingrained to health care operations that they’re regarded as a given.
They shouldn’t be. The low-tech methods currently used for medical billing induce wasteful spending that could all too easily be avoided.
Consider the experience you have when paying your healthcare provider for a medical procedure:
The Paper Case
You pay a co-pay at the office, wait a week or two, then get the letters. An EOB from your insurance provider, a statement of charges from the physician office, and a bill all come to you separately.
You sort through them, make sense of the charges, then write and mail a check to your physician’s office.
Now consider the last time you paid your credit card balance or a utilities bill. Was it done online? Which billing method do you think cost less money overall?
E-Ventual Change for the Better
Were the entire US healthcare system to switch over to electronic billing and credentialing, a large chunk of expenditures would be eliminated. A conservative estimate from Harvard University economist David Cutler puts the total savings of such a change at around $32 billion annually.
Hopefully as EHR use grows, the provisions of the Affordable Care Act are applied, and the government continues to incentivize the use of IT in healthcare, ushering in a complete switch over to electronic administration systems that will be realized sooner rather than later.
Until that day comes, though, you can use currently existing technology to bring the e-future of billing into your practice’s present. Doing so can lower your expenses and increase your revenue.
Electronic Methods, Every Day
In the example above, an online bill-pay system would have wiped out the costs associated with preparing and mailing paper bills and statements.
Consider the financial advantages other e-methods, like using electronic claims filing software to perform charge scrubbing so your billers don’t have to do it, or deploying an electronic eligibility-checking system that keeps staffers from needing to call insurance companies to verify coverage.
Or it can be even simpler: save stamp money by emailing pre-registration paperwork to new patients. Use technology to simplify your current processes. Your patients will appreciate it and you’ll see the effect it has on your budget.
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) refers to the initiative of incorporating e-methods into practice management as “Electronic Business Transformation.”
HIMSS recently published a valuable “Spotlight” resource, which provides “critical guidance as the business of healthcare goes digital.”
HIMSS’ message is clear: By streamlining the billing process through technology, you’ll save money and run your practice more efficiently.
The methods of the healthcare industry as a whole require comprehensive change to lower overall spending, but a complete transition to electronic processing has to begin somewhere. Why not with your practice?
Get on board with an electronic future and place your practice’s administrative routines ahead of the rest.
What e-methods do you use to save money?
Madelyn Young is a Content Writer for CareCloud and an expert on practice management, medical billing, HIPAA 5010, ICD-10 and revenue cycle management. You can read her work on Power Your Practice and the CareCloud Blog. Contact Madelyn with story suggestions, contributor articles, or any other feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @madelyn_young.
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