Three news items caught my eye this week, and they add up to a real challenge for medical practices. First, in a recent NewYorkTimes.com article entitled An Insurance Maze for U.S. Doctors, author Pauline W. Chen, M.D., discussed the obstacles to practicing medicine in the U.S. vs. in Canada in terms of dealing with payers:
“But American doctors in the study spent far more (time) dealing with multiple health plans: more than $80,000 per year per physician, or roughly four times as much as their northern counterparts. And their offices spent as many as 21 hours per week with payers, nearly 10 times as much as the Canadian offices.”
Researchers had asked hundreds of physicians and administrators in private practices across the United States and Canada how much time they spent each day with insurers and other third-party payers, tracking down information for claims that were denied or incorrectly paid, resolving questions about insurance coverage for prescription drugs or diagnostic tests, and filing the different forms required by each and every insurance company.
Next, I read in Physician Practices Falter on Thinning Margins by John Commins in HealthLeaders Media that:
“Physician groups across the country operated at a significant loss in 2010, thanks largely to dwindling Medicare reimbursements. At the same time physician compensation increased by an average of 2.4%, according to the American Medical Group Association’s 2011 Medical Group Compensation and Financial Survey.
“’The trends are pretty much continuing and have been consistent over the last six years of so. The operating margins are getting smaller and the pay increases are getting smaller as well,’ Tom Flatt, director of communications and publications at AMGA, told HealthLeaders Media.
“’We are hearing from our own groups who are anticipating significant cuts in Medicare that they are really worried about it. They are operating at such a small margin now that this will have a tremendous impact on access for patients,’ Flatt says. ‘They’re really feeling like they are on the edge of a cliff and without some sort of revenue, it’s really going to impact patient care.’”
Finally, just this morning I read in EHRs Beat Paper in Head-to-Head Competition by Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, that:
“Authors of a new study, published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, say they are among the first to offer hard evidence that in a head-to-head competition, electronic records beat paper.
“The researchers tracked quality measures and outcomes for more than 27,000 Cleveland-area adults with diabetes and found that those who were treated at physician practices using EHRs enjoyed substantially better outcomes than those who were treated by doctors relying on paper records.”
All of these news items add up to one argument for me: Physicians need to take advantage of technology to protect their practices, be able to provide the best patient care in today’s healthcare system (and what is coming), and to maximize their bottom lines.
Could it be any clearer?
The time when practices could delay implementing technology is long past. Now it’s becoming a matter not only of providing optimal patient care even under the constraints of our current health system, which is key to any physician practice, but of simple survival.
Is the sky falling?
We’re not trying to say “The sky is falling” here; we’re saying, “Do what has been proven to make sense in order to keep the sky from falling.”
And what is that, you ask?
1. Adopt medical billing software that reduces your cost of getting paid, improves your speed of getting paid, and doesn’t reduce your margin with high costs.
Sure, I know that sounds self-serving. But that’s why we’re in this business: to help physician practices get paid. Kareo was developed to help smaller practices that can’t afford the practice management systems that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Many physicians have delayed adopting practice management systems because of that high cost, in terms of both money and training time, and that day is past.
Kareo is web-based, affordable and easy to use. You pay only a monthly subscription fee and no upfront fees or cancellation charges, plus training is included. That means the cost of entry is extremely low, both in terms of time and money. But you don’t have to take our word for it – hear what our customers have to say.
2. Use your medical billing software to reduce the cost of getting paid.
The idea of practices spending $80,000 per year simply to collect what they are owed is, frankly, horrifying. What do you do to reduce that figure? Make sure you’re using electronic real-time eligibility verification to avoid having your staff spend hours on the phone simply verifying benefits, and so that you know what benefits the patient has, including number of sessions available. Use your contract management report to insure you’re getting paid what you are contractually owed. Reduce the amount of paper your staff has to file and store with a document management tool. Your software doesn’t offer these tools? Switch. It’s time.
3. Choose the right EHR for your practice, and make sure it integrates with your medical billing software.
Again, many practices have delayed implementing an EHR because of the high costs of both the software and the lost productivity while getting up to speed. I’m glad to tell you that not only do you have the option of a free EHR that integrates with Kareo (Practice Fusion), but we offer you the option of 6 other EHRs that integrate with Kareo, providing you with multiple affordable billing/EHR choices that will suit your specialty while streamlining your practice and helping you improve patient care.
You can also take advantage of the webinars Kareo provides that are designed to help you improve your bottom line, starting with “What You Can Do to Prepare for Medicare Payment Reductions” featuring expert Betsy Nicoletti. Then follow up with webinars on improving your denial management, managing key performance indicators and more. Also, be sure you’ve subscribed to our monthly newsletters so you can get tips on how to get paid faster, better and with less effort.
The sky is not falling for medical practices; they’re the real “too big to fail” businesses in this country. But at Kareo, we want to make sure that they are able to not only survive, but be successful.
Do you think physician practices are an endangered species? Let us know your opinion in the Comments box.