Cindy Hastings, Vice President of Operations
Some people hear the command to create a paperless business office and confusedly think, “Didn’t everyone do that ages ago?” Others are just rolling their eyes at the idea, thinking it’s all hype and pays no real dividends. But countless business offices are still plowing through ream after endless ream of paper (and thousands of dollars) because their leaders don’t think paperless is worth the investment.
All I can say is the paperless bandwagon is one every healthcare-focused business office should be on—and here’s some insight into the why.
Since we’re in the business of accounts receivable, let’s start with the numbers, and we’ll look first at one of your office’s most basic expenses: generating and mailing a patient bill. On average, it costs $8-$12 to send a single bill. Let’s assume you have to send at least two bills to each of your patients and, for the sake of easy math, say you see 1,000 patients annually. That means you’re spending $16,000-$24,000 every year just to mail bills.
Here’s another sobering number. Of the $2.7 trillion this country spends on healthcare every year, $400 billion of it “goes to claims processing, payments, billing, revenue cycle management (RCM), and bad debt—in part, because half of all payor-provider transactions involve outdated manual methods, such as phone calls and mailings.” That’s not a favorable statistic to support.
But numbers are just one reason to go paperless. Consider also how a paperless system can also improve your office’s efficiency, organization and even customer service.
How many times has your office misplaced an important hard copy document before it had been scanned into digital form? How many times has information been manually entered incorrectly because it wasn’t first collected digitally? And how many times has a patient or other customer been left waiting on the phone while someone in your office looked for a piece of paper?
While it isn’t reason to point fingers, the fact is human error is a huge factor in why business offices should go paperless; plus, the streamlined workflow and opportunities for improved organization will ultimately benefit your customer service and efficiency.
If I had your attention back at “$400 billion,” you’re now wondering where to start; here are a few tips.
Focus first on changes that will improve your employees’ workload. Consider systems that will allow your office to do secondary electronic claims and attachments, charge entry posting, payments or electronic statements (save that $8-$12 a pop!). When you start small and focus initial changes on improvements to workload, you’ll get easy buy in from your team on further paperless processes as soon as they see they’re saving time.
When considering any kind of system revision that will include any kind of electronic process, check first with your key vendors and IT department to ensure that you have the needed resources, equipment and systems capabilities. You don’t ever want to implement a process only to find out later that you’ve crashed a network or are no longer in compliance with an important vendor.
And speaking of compliance, HIPAA still has to be your number one consideration when sending and receiving patient-related information. Check, double-check and then check one more time to ensure that everything your office is doing electronically (or considering doing electronically) will be in keeping with all HIPAA regulations.
Paperless processes are of immeasurable value to hospital and ASC business offices. Not only can you save serious money, you can improve the lives of your team and your patients by creating an environment of efficiency and organization. in2itive has plenty more insight on how you could benefit from a paperless business office, so if you’ve got questions, be sure to contact us at 913-344-7998.
Bayley, M., Calkins, S., & Machado-Pereira, M. (2013, May 1). Hospital Revenue Cycle Operations: Opportunities Created by the ACA. McKinsey on Healthcare. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from http://healthcare.mckinsey.com/hospital-revenue-cycle-operations-opportunities-created-aca