Technology is a crucial element of any business or organization’s daily operations, especially in the healthcare industry. Finding new ways to improve the efficiency of operations is critical for both meeting the demands of patients as well as maintaining a smooth business.
In the healthcare industry, it is extremely costly when patients do not come to their scheduled appointments (“no-shows”). As a result, potential revenue that could have been earned if the patient showed up is lost. To reduce the number of no-shows that healthcare practices experience, it may be a good idea to invest in a text/email reminder system. The front-end or reception desk of the organization can send out friendly reminders to their patients in advance of their appointment to make sure they do not forget. In fact, a lot of consumers prefer text/email confirmations, as patients may not regularly check their voicemails. The goal of implementing the text/email reminder system is to prevent rescheduling difficulties as well as to increase revenues.
An additional technological practice that can expedite daily operations involves allowing patients to be more proactive with entering their own patient information and paying their medical bills. Incorporating a way for patients to enter their own personal, preliminary information can reduce the trouble and time for your personnel to enter the data, which can sometimes have omitted or incorrect inputs. This will also reduce the amount of front-desk paperwork that can pile up if a lot of patients send their demographic information. A lot of companies facilitate both electronic health record systems and practice management systems for their own record holdings on patients. It may be a good investment of time for clerical personnel to investigate these software programs more to see if they have the capabilities for patients to enter their own data and make online payments. Ultimately, this will save time for personnel and will reduce errors in data entry by personnel, since the patient is directly entering in their personal information.
Although empowering patients sounds like a time efficient strategy for healthcare facilities, there are some drawbacks that must be considered. For instance, practices may need to have a training or educational system carried out on the software to teach patients certain insurance terminology. Proper training will ensure that the information patients enter is complete and accurate. Fortunately, benefit verification systems are included in the practice management software, which can verify a patient’s health plan coverage eligibility.
Likewise, there is a concern for payment plans if the integrated process is implemented. Ensuring that patients are actually paying their bills is another critical component that needs to be verified. Most consumers prefer the opportunity to make payments online, especially the option for partial payments rather than in-full. However, without the proper technological support, compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) can be compromised.
Additionally, trying to collect co-pays and deductibles from patients could take a significant level of staff time and cause frustration. In order to reduce such issues, personnel can utilize the payment card industry (PCI) compliant functionality in practice management software. PCI allows for patients to keep their credit card information on file, where staff can issue scheduled charges to the patient’s credit card with no hassle.
Telemedicine has become a widely used process among many healthcare facilities and agencies, especially because of its expedited features. Telemedicine involves the use of electronic communication, such as video chats, emails, and smart phones, to deliver medical information to patients and provide them with health consultations in order to improve their clinical health and wellness. While traditional hospital and healthcare facility visits still occur, the use of electronic delivery has become more preferred among consumers in the modern healthcare industry. The use of telemedicine accommodates a patient’s lifestyle, and it also makes it easier for patients who do not live near the hospital or health agency to receive appropriate care. This can eliminate the unnecessary stress of trying to find time in the patient’s day to travel to the nearest hospital. Not only does this benefit the patient, but it also helps to reduce business expenses for the hospitals and health agencies. Similarly, patients do not incur travel expenses or transportation costs to facilitate the consultation, and telemedicine can eliminate long hospital stays for patients.
As technological advances are streamlining the business industry, it is very important for healthcare providers and businesses to take advantage of them. While it may seem costly to invest in various technologies (applications, phones, laptops, etc.), it certainly will reduce these other costs in the long run. With rapid innovations in today’s technology, it is seemingly apparent that most, if not all hospitals or health agencies, will implement such strategies as well as the use of telemedicine in their practices in the near future.
Shari Diamond, CIA
Shari has been with Cerini & Associates, LLP since 2008 where she works primarily with the firm’s school district clients providing internal audit and claims audit services. She has over twenty years’ experience performing internal audits, risk assessments, and compliance reviews, as well as recommending processes to strengthen the internal controls environment while increasing efficiencies. Her prior experience at PWC and Northrop Grumman included performing Information Technology audits.