Impacts of Medical EMR Software on medical billing services. Can medical EMR software eliminate medical billing services?
Many in billing and coding feel the implementation of EMR medical software by their clients is going to obsolete medical billing services. There’s even those who express concern that medical billing specialist and coding jobs could be impacted. I read a recent forum on the topic lately that discussed how some EMR vendors are selling the benefits of their product to handle the billing functions. They sell the feature of having a billing module or the ability to communicate with the EMR medical software implying it renders the billing service unnecessary and will save the potential client in not paying a billing service.
However many people fear medical EMR software because they don’t understand it.
Misguided Selling Points?
Some feel that medical emr software vendors are making a selling point that their software will take care of the billing in addition to being an EMR software solution. Emphasis may be placed on the ability of EMR medical software to interface or be linked to the practice management application. The suggestion may be implied that the product somehow automates the billing functions and can save money by not needing a service (or employees) to take care of the billing functions.
But those of us who have done billing know the many functions we perform are not something that can be automated by a software. Most of our clients already have practice management or billing software available in their office. The software is not the reason they outsource the billing functions to begin with. They outsource because they don’t have the resources or expertise available to perform the billing. There’s a lot more involved to the billing process than simply typing in some information and uploading or transmitting electronic claims. There are phone calls to the insurance company, questions from patients about their bill, claim tracking and follow-up, payment posting, patient statements, resolving issues with the clearinghouse, etc. Practices who use billing services value the expertise and understand the efficiency in using those who only responsibility is billing.
There’s also the issue of hiring and retaining good employees. You probably know what a mess it creates and how badly a provider's income is impacted when someone inexperienced in billing takes over. And the dangerous thing is it may be weeks before a provider realizes claims aren’t getting paid. A doctor can have the fanciest and most expensive billing and medical EMR software available, but its only as good as the people using it. If they don’t understand billing and what it takes to get paid, the software they use and whether it's compatible with the EMR medical software doesn’t matter.
Medical EMR Systems - A Valuable Tool
EMR medical software as just another tool that can make it easier to organize and access patient information - especially in support of the reimbursement process. It can save a lot of time looking up patient demographic, insurance, or treatment information to correct or verify information submitted to insurance companies on claims. This information would normally be contained in paper files that are not as easily accessed or maintained as EMR is.
An example of how it has made our billing service more efficient is in the ability to access patient information online without having to request files to be pulled, copies made, and transmitted to us by the office staff. I can pull up a scanned copy of the patient's insurance card to verify information. This saves the practice and me valuable time. Or when there are questions about whether the correct codes were assigned, the physician notes from the patient encounter can be accessed to verify diagnosis or treatment.
If you are in billing and coding, I would advise embracing EMR and learning as much as you can. It makes you more attractive and valuable to potential employers to be knowledgeable in EMR. After all someone needs to enter, maintain, and manage the EMR software.
Offer Additional Services
However billing services can use EMR medical software implementation as an opportunity to offer additional services to their client. It's important to understand what medical EMR software does and doesn’t offer. For a client who makes comments about bringing the billing in-house, use that as an opportunity to explain all the functions the EMR medical software can’t do. Most practices who have implemented a medical EMR software system know the software doesn’t replace people - it just enables them to work more efficiently and effectively to improve revenue and patient care.
When the statement is made that a new medical EMR system “does all the billing”, ask if it can answer patient questions about their account, follow up on unpaid claims, post payments, identify coding mistakes, etc.
When a practice implements an EMR medical software system, they will need help making the transition. Given a billing service is already familiar with their specialty and coding, being well versed in EMR systems, you can offer valuable assistance when making the transition. This will further earn the trust of your client who will appreciate the value and expertise your billing service provides.
For clients implementing a medical EMR software, the billing service can provide support on-site when they begin using the system. Training on EMR systems is a great opportunity for third parties (billing services) to provide value to a practice. There’s also the ongoing need to troubleshoot and support the EMR system that is best done in person - not over the phone. EMR medical software also requires customization for the specific practice. This offers a great opportunity for a billing service to setup, customize, and demonstrate the features for the system to the providers staff.
In summary medical billing services shouldn’t view medical EMR software systems as a threat - but as an opportunity to provide additional services and value to a client. This can further establish a trust with the client and a confidence that you have the same goal as they do - to make their practice grow and prosper.
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