Almost 20 years ago Congress passed HIPAA, a law that called for the creation of a distinct health identifier for individuals. However, soon after the 1996 passing of HIPAA laws, controversy arose around concerns about whether or not the patient’s privacy would be protected. In response to these controversies, Congress passed an additional law in 1999 that prohibited federal funding for the identifier.
Since then the handling of health records has moved towards a digital and electronic format. Electronic health records systems allow patient information to be shared amongst hospitals and private practices effortlessly and quickly. However, the development and growth of EHRs lately has increased the need for an identifier that would help ensure that the right records are exchanged among multiple providers correctly.
The largest group driving Congress to change their policies on HIPAA law is the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, or CHIME for short. This group consists of around 1,600 members and includes healthcare CIOs and CISOs, amongst others medical professionals. Their primary goal is to urge Congress to remove the ban that prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from using federal funds for the development of a unique patient identifier.
We’re less than three months away from the deadline for providers to migrate towards the usage of ICD-10 coding, and yet many feel that they’re still not prepared for this change. According to a survey conducted by the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange, more than half of the 1,100 organizations polled weren’t even aware of the October 1 transition date. Most are still in the process of end-to-end testing, and uncertainty over further delays has had a negative impact on some readiness activities.
Providers have been attempting to prepare and properly educate themselves in anticipation of making the switch over to ICD-10 compliance. Even after being delayed in 2009, 2012 and again in 2014, many providers still don’t feel totally confident in their readiness to make the switch.
In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act – or the HITECH Act for short – was passed alongside the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As a result of the passing of this new law, the need for EHR software has gone through the roof. Software Advice, a Gartner company, published a study earlier this year that showed that the number of buyers replacing their existing EHR service has increased by 59% since 2014. This remarkable statistic suggests that many EHR products are failing to meet their user’s requirements.
As the shift towards a virtual platform becomes the new-normal, we’re seeing a burgeoning industry of BPOs that claim to meet all of their user’s needs. The good news for buyers looking to adopt one of these services is that the market for them is growing and the options are numerous. The bad news, however, is that many of these operations aren’t providing the functionality its users are looking for. With various options available to choose from, it’s important for buyers to recognize whether or not a prospective service can meet these four fundamental requirements:
Death and taxes used to be the only guarantees in life, but like it or not, the U.S. government has over the last few years introduced a third guarantee in American lives: healthcare.
The healthcare industry is facing an incredible amount of disruption through its ongoing transformation. Rather than feel threatened by this disruption, companies should act now to take advantage of growth opportunities in this sector.
This blog post is the second in a series of four over the implementation of ICD-10.
The increased level of specificity from the latest iteration of the ICD healthcare classification system presents its share of challenges for physicians and healthcare providers. Most physicians are used to operating under a more forgiving system wherein they could provide vague or insufficient information regarding patient diagnosis and treatments and still expect the coder to accurately categorize the procedure or diagnosis.
Compared to its previous iteration, ICD-10 is highly specific with amended categories. Inaccurate code entries have the ability to result in overpayment, as well as impact revenue and patient medical records. Ensuring that both coders and physicians are adequately trained will mitigate opportunity for error in each of those areas.
This blog is the first in a series of four posts on the implementation of ICD-10.
The new ICD-10 classification system poses challenges for healthcare facilities due to its vastly increased specificity and the associated learning curves for coders and physicians. Failure to successfully implement the ICD-10 classification system by the Oct. 15, 2015 deadline can have a myriad of negative consequences for healthcare providers and their patients. As such, providers have a host of reasons to get things right at the coding level to avoid inaccurate medical records, overpayment and potential impacts on revenue.
Opportunities for Inaccuracy
While financial aspects will drive the focus for these audits—reimbursement accuracy, severity adjustments, fraud and abuse initiatives—the breadth of specificity in the classification system can improve both patient outcomes as well as the bottom line. But this specificity and complexity also opens it to problems. The sheer number of codes associated with ICD-10 represents thousands of opportunities for mistakes during the coding. The last iteration of ICD regulations contains 13,000 codes. By comparison, ICD-10 contains more than 68,000 codes. The ability to identify problems at the genesis will allow providers to improve their charting and coding processes, potentially avoiding costly mistakes downstream.
Small, rural hospitals all across America are facing detrimental plights in a strained changing healthcare landscape. According to media reports, more than two-dozen such hospitals have closed since 2013. While the problems associated with each hospital differs with each location, many of the challenges are rooted in financial and operational pressures. In such cases, a healthcare BPO organization can help with back-office processes.
One hospital reportedly lost nearly $3 million from $55 million in revenue in 2012, a year removed from losing $1.3 million from $57 million in revenue. Granted, this same hospital also experienced major setbacks as a result of a fire that closed the hospital for several weeks, but those problems only served to hasten the inevitable. The financial strains were unsustainable.
Some of the hospitals are provided short-term relief via nominal local tax increases approved by voters, which would float hospitals so many millions of dollars over the course of a few years. That temporary lifeline, however, does little to resolve the financial and operational pressures plaguing these small facilities.
Too small to fail?
These rural hospitals play an important role in a delicate healthcare ecosystem, as demonstrated by the willingness of voters to shoulder the costs to attempt to keep them open. However small, rural hospitals should continually look toward outside resources to decrease the costly and burdensome operations placed on local staff.
This week, September 15-19 is National Health IT Week. This initiative is a collaborative forum and virtual awareness week that assembles key groups dedicated to working together to advance health through the best use of information technology. Healthcare reform is not possible without system-wide adoption of health information technology. As a result, healthcare business process outsourcing coordinates with health IT to play an important role in improving the quality of healthcare delivery, especially by improving processes to promote financial engagement.
As the industry becomes more aware of opportunities to improve the overall consumer experience, providers shouldn’t ignore one of the single-greatest interactions that is liable to make one of the most lasting impressions on patients: the billing experience.
Improving the billing experience
Bills and finances typically are the last interaction providers have with patients. Providers should view the financial encounter as another opportunity in a comprehensive plan that seeks to educate patients about their conditions and involve them in decisions that impact their health.
Healthcare is a complicated business. Hospitals can lose money for a number of reasons: lower surgical volume, increased expenses associated with new procedures or new technologies, and from debt write-offs. Reducing write-offs, in particular, can make a huge difference. When a healthcare center doesn’t receive payments for the full cost of a service, the difference becomes a write-off. For smaller operations, balancing those write-offs is difficult, especially with growing self-pay populations. A business process outsourcing company with experience in the healthcare sector can help eliminate write-offs.
While the Affordable Care Act is creating a massive shift in how healthcare is handled, many hospitals are left to fend for themselves with write-offs. Partnering with a BPO company to manage payment processing and billing can allow a healthcare center to redirect efforts on improving provider/patient relationships.
The write-off problem
A patient’s ability to pay isn’t a determining factor for whether they receive service. As a result, healthcare is a business unlike any other. Eventually, something has to give.
The proliferation of medical data is turning data management into risk management.
Every healthcare provider must be aware of the security risks when handling patient information. For instance, on May 14, 2012, federal prosecutors charged a medical technician with violating HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Over a 17-month period the technician used her position to access patients’ names, addresses and Medicare numbers. She then attempted to sell their information. Earlier, in an unrelated event, this same hospital notified more than 34,000 patients that their medical data had been compromised. A contractor downloaded the patients’ files onto a personal laptop, which was then stolen from the contractor’s car. The data on the laptop was password-protected but unencrypted, which means anyone who cracked the password could have accessed the patient files. Core measures established under HIPAA and the HITECH Act require all parties who touch private medical records to conduct a security risk analysis to be compliant and qualified for incremental government financial incentives.
A trusted BPO provider, knowledgeable of HIPAA and HITECH compliance issues, is the best solution for providers looking to streamline back-office processes while maintaining the highest security standards.
The real penalties for bad processes
Failing to comply doesn’t just mean a loss of incentives, there’s a real cost with civil and criminal penalties and fines for lax security processes. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is especially true here.