Another year has dawned with renewed hope and expectations, but physicians continue to contemplate the many challenges facing them. From EHR data entry, quality measures, and changing reimbursement norms to security issues, consumerism, and burnout, confusion abounds. Outsourcing medical billing and coding as well as other functions to an experienced service provider is a viable option to deal with many of these concerns. Let’s see how.
- EHR data entry: Physicians are fed up with the task of EHR data entry as it prevents them from giving patients the attention they deserve. Patients are disgruntled too. According to a 2016 study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, only 27 percent of a doctor’s time is spent with patients, with nearly half spent on EHR and desk work. The study found this to be true across fields such as family practice, internal medicine, cardiology and orthopedics. Another study published in Health Affairs found that primary care physicians’ time was split 50-50 between direct patient care and desktop medicine. Outsourcing EHR-related documentation tasks to a reliable medical transcription service provider can help. Medical transcription companies are now well-equipped to provide feeds to EHR systems to meet provider needs in quick turnaround time.
- Quality measures: Under the federal government’s Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), physicians are rewarded for quality care and improved patient outcomes. According to the final rule governing the Medicare Quality Payment Program, beginning in 2018, the cost category based on claims data becomes 10% of eligible physicians’ final MIPS score. This change will affect physicians who already face challenges in providing the greater range of data required to demonstrate improvement in care, delivery, value, and efficiency of services, as well as the use of EHRs for meeting quality measures. Physicians can choose the measures used to evaluate them. In a Medical Economics article, experts advise practices to select a broad range of measures that will accurately reflect the types of clinical care they most commonly provide. This will ensure that their sample sizes are large enough to be statistically meaningful. As physicians focus on patient care and quality measure reporting, the support of an efficient medical billing company can ensure comprehensive revenue cycle management.
- Changing regulatory and reimbursement landscape: The major trends in the current healthcare environment include the emergence of bundled payments, alternative payment models (APMs), and tiered narrow networks, in addition to high demand for price transparency by patients. Practices are finding it difficult to keep up with the ever-changing rules. A recent study by ORC International reports that, by the year 2021, 17 percent of reimbursements will take place in the form of bundled payments. Contracts between ASCs and major insurers could include agreements with third-party bundled payment companies. This means that ASCs must partner with these providers of outsourcing solutions to stay competitive.
- Impaired communication with patients: Patients resent the distraction that EHRs pose at the office visit. With the physician focused on entering data into the electronic medical record, there is little time left for the patient. EHRs have impaired communication and de-personalized the physician-patient relationship. Experts say that physicians can improve the situation by giving the patient time to talk and paying attention to them. The physical exam could provide an opportunity for communication. On their part, patients should come prepared with a list of questions, prioritizing one or two things. These strategies can ensure that time is spent more efficiently at the encounter.
- Healthcare data security: Patient privacy issues and data breaches were a top challenge for providers, payers, and consumers in 2017. According to the Protenus Breach Barometer, about 233 total breaches were reported in the first six months of 2017. These breaches involved thousands of patients whose personal health information (PHI) was compromised. Hospitals and practices outsourcing medical billing, coding and transcription to a HIPAA-compliant service provider can ensure compliance with best practices for data security to avoid the type of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations.
- Battling burnout: Physical and emotional exhaustion is taking a toll on physicians. A recent study by the Mayo Clinic shows that more than 50 percent of physicians experience one or more symptoms of burnout. Physicians are having a tough time coping with challenges ranging from multifarious administrative and financial concerns to disgruntled patients. Burnout and stress can cut short a potentially successful career. Physicians need to learn to manage their time and focus on their priorities, while finding time to relax, exercise, get enough sleep, and do things that promote personal satisfaction. Delegating administrative responsibilities and other key tasks such as compliance to a reliable medical billing and coding company can make the most sense.
Vigilance and continuing education are necessary to keep pace with current industry trends in 2018 and beyond. Medical billing and coding outsourcing to a technologically advanced service provider is a practical strategy for healthcare professionals to ensure compliance with new regulations as they focus on what they do best – treating patients.