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Hiring Mr. Automation

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01/12/2017

This article from the Jan/Feb issue of HBMA Billing. Read more here

Hiring Mr. Automation

Save Valuable Time With These Automated Processes



I started in medical billing with an actual typewriter and file cabinets all around me. Each step of the billing process was done manually, and although it took longer than it does today, the objective was the same: Get the claim paid!

A big goal over the last several years was to "automate" everything when it comes to business and billing. A lot of this process started when we all went home to work five years ago and became a "virtual company." We had to come up with ways to work on things together without the ability to "hand" a file to someone, or "push" a piece of paper around the room. Automating the company was crucial.

Every department that required updating was tackled in stages. Below is an overview of each step that can be implemented to guide your company to ensure automation is being used every step of the way. By setting up some of these things to run automatically, you can get back some of the time in your day.

Human Resources

  • Employee handbooks are shared through electronic file cabinets. These same electronic files are used to share all of our working documents. Employees are sent "sharing" emails when there are changes or new files to view. No more printing and collating.
     
  • Time clocks are online, employee hours are fed into the payroll system, and taxes are filed for all states in which the company has a presence through our payroll company. Time spent adding up time cards – gone.
     
  • Training is done through a GoToMeeting program and webcams help to keep in touch with the human side of things. A shared calendar is useful to update colleagues of days off and upcoming meetings. They receive an alert when a meeting is about to begin. Colored paper to announce meeting agendas is now obsolete.
     
  • Using a feature called "shadowing" in practice management systems, where you can see an employee's screen and review what steps an employee is using on a certain section of the program, is useful in doing training. Standing behind the employee to train in a small cubicle – also gone.
     
  • Shared documents are useful to monitor certain tasks, and everyone can update documents on the forms as progress is completed. This reduces time spent reinventing tracking forms.




Paper

  • An additional electronic file cabinet for all of billing documents is helpful. Clients scan directly into this cabinet, and those scans are then routed to the appropriate employee to handle. This system also serves as a "workflow" for everyone to know which tasks need to be completed next. It even has an audit trail feature to show all of the files that were touched in a day, along with who added, edited, or documented on a file. No more picking up billing to process.
     
  • One of the cabinets can be used for the credentialing and contracting department to house all of the contracts and documents needed for insurance companies. Boxes of contracts and forms are eliminated this way.

Banking

  • A lockbox company at a well-known bank can be used to send all payments, which are then scanned into the company's system to be processed. This replaced having all of the mail come to an office location that had to be manually touched, sorted, and deposited.

Clearinghouse

  • At most billing companies, the clearinghouse handles all electronic remittance advice (ERA) payments that come through. Each day, these are downloaded directly into the practice management system and then posted. The claims are sent over to them each night in the same automatic fashion. Companies can process statement runs once a week, and the system generates those and uploads them to the clearinghouse to forward. As each function is completed, companies receive reports in order to monitor progress. Days of hand posting are over.

Faxes

  • We use an electronic faxing system that receives all incoming faxes and then routes the document to the correct staff member to handle. No machine to service or paper to reload.

Phone

  • A virtual phone system that can forward a call to any number set up in the system improves efficiency. It tracks all incoming calls, and has some really helpful search features for quality assurance checks. Expensive phone systems – replaced.

Clients

  • Automating your clients is not something you can do, but automating your meetings with them is. Set up several meetings with your clients monthly or quarterly. This ensures­ that everyone will know, in advance, where and when a meeting will be held.

Reports

  • Have a productivity report sent every day to "review" the work done by staff. It details each employee's progress for the day, which accounts they have worked on, and what is left. No extensive lists to keep track of.
     
  • A report scheduler feature can send any report to anyone at any time. It can be used to send a task to the employee after the batch billing is run, showing any up-front rejections that prevent the claim from being sent. They receive these in their "queue" to work. Employees also receive daily, weekly, or monthly reports from the system showing items to work on depending if there are out of balance accounts, missing information from providers, or authorization reports that need attention.
     
  • The "month-end" process used to be a day-long event of printing pages and pages of reports and mailing them out to the providers. This transformed into a day-long event that demanded reports that were sent to providers by e-mail. With automated processes, providers receive reports from the software on the first of the month. Each report they have requested for analysis, payroll reporting, etc., is generated and on its way to them electronically.

Accounts Payable/Invoicing

  • Electronic accounting systems manage the company and track all of the money in and money out. Monthly invoices can be generated to be sent to clients on the first of the month. Most pay within five days through an ACH option, and those payments are automatically matched in the accounting system, thereby closing out the invoice. It is wise to include a link to the business bank account to clear all deposits and payments so the days of doing bank recs are also gone. Vendors can also be set up for recurring automatic payments, which are sent to them when it is due.

Group Emails

  • Save time by having all employees under one group email setting so sending out an announcement can be done in one step. A similar setup can be used for clients, which means that notices about upcoming industry changes can be sent to just one group.

Website

  • Set up a report to send website information each week to track how many visitors land on the site and which pages were most recently viewed. Based on the feedback this generates, the website can be tweaked accordingly.

Here is the math on time saved: Automating the above steps equals 30 days back per month. That is a whole month of time back in your pocket! Now the time or staff it took to handle all of these processes can be shifted to other departments and tasks, and then what will you do with your time?

Implementing automation into your company can give you back the time you need to step back long enough to see things from a different perspective. When we get lost in the muck of the day-to-day, we miss the opportunity to see the big picture of what our business can be.


Roxanne Smith-Kovac was born and raised in San Diego. She is the owner and CEO of Advanced Pacific Medical, LLC, a multi-specialty billing and revenue cycle management company with clients in several states. This is her 30th year in the healthcare field and she is a certified healthcare billing and management executive. Roxanne has been a speaker at the American Psychological Association conference, a lunch and learn series at Alvarado Parkway Institute, and the Raintree Systems User Conference. She has also spoken at the HBMA conference and serves on the Publications and Membership committees.

 

 

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