New billing software goes beyond the ordinary

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

When it comes to improving the functionality of HME companies, look no further than billing software systems.

An older model may just serve the rudimentary billing process—preparing claims, sending them out and receiving payments for services rendered. But considering how much more today’s billing systems can do, it may finally be time to upgrade to a platform that allows an HME company to go beyond the ordinary, software manufacturers say.

New systems tie in all sorts of aspects of revenue cycle support, such as patient tracking mechanisms that automatically issue reminders for replacement equipment, electronic prescribing capabilities that include electronic CMNs and outcomes data that can be shared with referral sources and payers. Properly using information technology can help elevate an HME provider’s efficiencies, professional image and most importantly, revenues.

“The right system should address all aspects of the business—financial, operational and clinical,” said Spencer Kay, president of Plainview, N.Y.-based Fastrack Healthcare Systems. “It should not solely be a ‘billing system.’ Inventory control, warehouse automation and delivery operations are areas that incur substantial cost to the company and should be addressed with the same importance as billing and cash posting.”

Tools for accounts receivable collections, equipment maintenance tracking, document management, audit compliance and data mining are other functions that must be given serious and equal weight in the selection of a system, Kay said.

Gregg Timmons, CEO of McKinney, Texas-based MedAct Software maintains that a new generation billing system should perform three core functions at a minimum: revenue cycle management, supply chain management and operations management. Add-on capabilities might include point-of-sale tracking and ancillary services billing.

“HME-specific billing systems have evolved from the simple HCFA 1500 claim form to integrated business management software focused on maximizing synchronization,” Timmons said. “This type of end-to-end solution is deployed throughout the organization to improve and streamline processes, performance metrics, patient outcomes, and ultimately business performance.”

Be intelligent

The evolution from focusing on automating billing to automating the entire business is essential, says Chris Watson, chief marketing officer at Brightree. But one area that’s often overlooked: reporting and monitoring.

“An effective software platform has to provide not only dashboards and standard reports, but it must enable a metrics-focused executive to measure very specific areas of the business and gain control over what data is monitored on a regular basis,” she said.

That level of software intelligence extends to the documentation process, Watson says.

“Software has come a long way, but based on what we hear from customers, they require documentation to be more easily available and for their workflows to be ‘document aware,’ meaning documentation is integrated into the workflow and that there’s some intellgence around tasks relative to which documents are in the system or not,” she said.

Bridge the gap

Continuous replenishment is another function that a new generation billing system can provide, adds Tom Tucker, vice president of sales and marketing for Houston-based Attentus Medical.

“While home medical companies live and breathe with their billing systems, they don’t have continuous replenishment programs to manage their relationships and follow up with patients,” he said. “Many companies are not following up with their patients with things they need 30 days later.”

A common problem HME companies have is with multiple systems that don’t communicate with each other, Tucker said, which causes an information gap on vital patient issues like follow-up and compliance.

“This makes it a lot harder to see if a patient is really using the equipment,” he said. “There has to be control on the front and back ends to report outcomes data to referral sources. You have to be the quarterback for that information—you can’t just deliver a piece of equipment, you have to be able to state how well it’s working.”

Implement change

Implemented properly, a good software management system should pay for itself in the first year in savings of staff time and increased productivity, said Rick Long, President of Brentwood, Tenn.-based TeamDME.

“With the proper training, staff should be able to begin using a new system with little or no reduction in cash flow,” he said. “Hosted systems can save money initially, while hosting yourself saves in the long term.”

Wayne Bailey, director of marketing and sales for Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Bonafide, says how a company adopts a new system is also critical to its success.

“Too often a company will purchase hardware and software and then insist on operating as they always have in the past,” he said. “Purchasing technology is one thing, but committing to the proper implementation is where they go wrong. Management will purchase a new system and then depend on employees to implement it.”

Building a strong billing team begins the moment the HME manager makes the decision to incorporate a new billing system, adds Jackie Hutchins, Bonafide’s compliance officer.

“Whether utilizing an internal billing staff or outsourcing to a billing service, the view that HME management conveys should be the view adopted by employees,” she said. “Change is a must and the perception of HME management’s goal sets the tone for the transition.”

Add-on value

Though not technically a billing system company, Knoxville, Tenn.-based Jaysec Technologies offers a number of applications in its software to help the HME business integrate multiple functions, says vice president Roxie Murray.

“We serve as a partner to your billing software—so instead of trying to manage multiple software systems, we enable you to work with your billing software and Jaysec’s software,” she said.

One of the problems with outmoded electronic billing: The dependence on paper like faxes, Murray said. With physician offices converting to electronic methods, she said this inhibits workflow.

“We offer truly paperless e-prescribing software—our average DSO on a claim is 1.2 days with a CMN,” Murray said. “We were ahead of the curve when we started this eight years ago, but now utilization is snowballing.”