4 Electronic Tools to Make Your Office More Efficient

As healthcare reform brings millions of newly insured patients into a system that already sees shortages in primary care physicians and select specialties, we need to be smarter in how we communicate and interact.

As healthcare reform brings millions of newly insured patients into a system that already sees shortages in primary care physicians and select specialties, we need to be smarter in how we communicate and interact. Fortunately, affordable electronic communication tools are available that support office efficiencies and enhance the patient experience in ways that everyone benefits. Here are 4:

• Electronic health records —To maximize performance and revenue potential, physicians should look for an EHR vendor who has been certified for Stage 2 of “meaningful use,” meaning that the technology improves patient care coordination, reduces healthcare disparities, engages patients and their families, improves population and public health, and ensures adequate privacy and security. Beginning this year, Medicare providers who have not adopted a certified EHR will be subject to a payment reduction, which starts at 1% and increases each year the eligible provider does not demonstrate meaningful use.

Electronic clinical messaging — Through electronic clinical messaging physicians can be notified in real time and at point of care of the recommended clinical procedures most advantageous to the patient. Studies have shown that doing so improves quality of care and allows for better results of disease management while reducing medical errors. Clinical messaging can also increase compliance with Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) and National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) scores (and thus improve “Star Ratings”) through its ability to accurately capture all of the needed HEDIS preventative care measures. The best clinical-messaging programs are integrated with a physician’s practice management software to allow for direct interaction between the physician’s office and a health plan’s case manager.

Online patient interaction — Patients today should have the ability to schedule, cancel, or change an appointment online as well as request medication refills, view lab results and keep track of their entire medical records. Online communication is not intended to take the place of an office visit when that is required, but patients can save a lot of time, money and hassle by being able to communicate securely with their physician’s office online, particularly for routine questions or administrative needs. Such communication greatly benefits the physician as well as it allows him/her to spend more time with their patients in the office or the hospital and less time handling routine tasks.

Web-based clearinghouse — The right clearinghouse can increase cash flow, lower accounts receivables, and assure that physicians receive the full reimbursement they are entitled to for the services they provide. In addition to pre-screening for errors in the information provided by the physician to the payer, a clearinghouse helps in the claims processing because insurance companies that receive claims through a clearinghouse get information in a format that is actionable and easy to understand. Physicians should look for a clearinghouse that is capable of managing every aspect of the revenue cycle including claims management, eligibility and electronic remittance advice.

Electronic communication linking physicians, payers, and patients is making major inroads in improving patient care and satisfaction. Just as physicians have historically relied on technology to assist with diagnosis and treatment, it is now time to apply that same comfort level when it comes to technology and communication.

Brian O’Neill is the chief executive officer of Office Ally, which works with more than 330,000 providers and 5,600 insurance carriers and is the only organization in the country offering healthcare providers a full suite of revenue-cycle management services. www.officeally.com