Online medical billing programs use a Web-based interface to provide many of the essential functions medical practices need in order to maximize their invoicing efficiency and/or revenues. Depending on the needs of the practice, this provides several advantages over traditional on-site system installations. This guide will provide an overview of the market and to help buyers in their decision-making process search for the right solutions.
We'll discuss the following topics:
Online medical billing solutions increase collections in medical offices in numerous ways—from ensuring proper claims coding and verifying insurance coverage to posting payments and generating reports. In addition to increasing revenues by identifying previously unbilled claims, invoicing applications automate a traditionally repetitive and error-prone task and frees up staff to focus on other activities.
Most cloud-based medical billing software is designed for the user to submit claims electronically. More advanced systems will provide coding support, and the top-of-the-line systems will scrub claims, post payments, offer alerts and provide for advanced reporting.
What distinguishes Web medical billing software from other deployment strategies is that the system is available entirely online through a Web browser. This means that the information can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection, the user doesn’t have to worry about upgrades or coding updates, and there’s no need for a server or any other kind of IT infrastructure. And in this software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, the user pays a monthly or annual fee rather than upfront purchase cost.
Most buyers of healthcare invoicing systems fall into one of the following categories:
Integrated suite buyers. This is for buyers who are looking for one integrated suite to manage their entire practice. As well as the invoicing modules, selection will be made based on scheduling, EMR and PACS capabilities, usually with a very targeted focus to the medical specialty.
Inpatient care providers. This includes hospitals and long-term care facilities that submit claims on UB-04 forms. Since this type of form typically requires a system designed for inpatient billing, make sure the product you select has this capability.
Outpatient care providers. Most private practices that submit claims on the CMS-1500 forms fall into this category. Since these buyers are submitting electronic claims to Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies, they’ll need something with that level of flexibility in its invoicing and payment structure.
Cash-based providers. You fall into this category if most of your revenues come from customers paying directly with cash, check or a credit card. Since these buyers don’t submit many (if any) claims to insurance companies or to the government, their needs are much more lightweight. Chiropractors, alternative medicine providers and certain kinds of mental health providers are the most common buyers in this category.
Outsourced services. These buyers are third-party companies that submit claims on behalf of providers and receive a percentage of the collections. Typically, their functional requirements will mirror those of their clients, but they may require a very broad-based, flexible system if they bill for clients with varying specialties.
Patient billing software is a project management application that's imperative for mid- to large-size projects. Firms that implement and make use of these systems should realize the following benefits:
An important consideration when purchasing a cloud-based patient billing system is the implementation plan. Every user needs to be trained on the product, and often adoption of new technology is met with resistance from people who are comfortable doing things the old way. Therefore, it’s important to get buy-in among all users to get them excited about using it.
Since SaaS programs charge a monthly or annual fee, there is the potential that the user will pay more in the long run than they will for an on-site solution. However, this tends to be the case only for larger companies with bigger budgets and dedicated IT personnel. A more significant drawback would be limited integration to external devices (e.g., ultrasounds and MRIs). If this is a concern, many of the leading client/server systems are available in an application service provider (ASP) model, which means that the system’s server is hosted at a professional data center, which effectively hybridizes the Web-based model with the locally hosted one.
Consider the following trends as they develop and impact the market:
Mobile computing. Since healthcare providers are increasingly using tablet devices (such as the iPad) or smartphones on a regular basis, more systems are offering mobile compatibility. If your practice could benefit from this kind of mobility, ensure the system you select has strong mobile capabilities.
ONC-ATCB Certification. Government legislation requiring the use of EMRs is impacting the EMR market, but it also affects the practice management market. Since an integrated practice management system has so many benefits, it may be wise to select a program that incorporates all these features—or at the very least supports upgrades and/or integration with EMR systems to be adopted later.
While the market can appear confusing and highly fragmented, the available solutions are differentiated by their appeal to the different buyer types.
|This type of buyer...||Should evaluate these systems|
|Integrated suite buyers||Allscripts, MedLedger, CareTracker, SuiteMed|
|Inpatient care providers||Inpatient care providers Sage Intergy, athenaCollector, NextGen|
|Outpatient care providers||AllegianceMD, LeonardoMD, AdvancedMD|
|Cash-based providers||MDConnection, MediTouch|
|Outsourced services||Practice Admin, AdvancedMD, NueMD|
Since the purpose of a medical billing system is to increase collections and decrease the time and effort required to receive them, the traditional measures of effectiveness for SaaS-based medical billing software are average collection timeframe and the ratio of claims accepted to rejected. The biggest benefit to SaaS applications is that they require a much lower upfront cost, since the fees that covers the licensing, technical support and upgrades are all monthly. Therefore, most buyers using this deployment model find the financial return on investment to be almost immediate.
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