Is it time to revise your front-office workflow?

Laurie Morgan

Laurie Morgan, senior consultant and partner, Capko & Morgan

Changes in technology and in health insurance reimbursement have created a fair bit of upheaval for medical practices in recent years. Payment responsibility has shifted to patients and has created additional  tasks for a practice’s front office. Front-office employees are spending more time collecting copays or balances from patients, reminding them about appointments, and verifying insurance eligibility. Billers are also spending more time explaining payment obligations to patients and collecting more balances than they did even 5 years ago. Technology innovation has helped address some of these problems, but that has also meant that offices have new systems to deploy and to learn to use.

With needs changing so quickly, there isn’t always time for a comprehensive review of practice workflow. Typically, when a new need is identified, administrators and managers try to quickly figure out how it can best be incorporated into the existing process. Over time, as more tasks are added to the job responsibilities of office staff, workflow may not be as efficient. That’s why it’s helpful to periodically review your workflow in a holistic way, to be sure it’s still the most efficient way to get things done. This can be a good time to deploy new technology, including activating an important new system feature.

For example, real-time eligibility checking has become a common feature of many practice management systems. But sometimes practices either don’t use this feature  at all, or just replace an older method (such as relying on health plan websites or phone lines) with the updated technology. Replacing the old way with the new will likely improve efficiency and accuracy—but rethinking workflow has the potential to deliver much bigger gains.

Most practices have never considered the option of checking eligibility while scheduling the patient’s appointment, because it just wasn’t practical. Researching an insurance website to confirm eligibility (or worse, calling the plan) would just take too long while the patient waited on the phone. Consequently, the practice (and the patient) would incur the risk—and usually  the patient wouldn’t find out their insurance wasn’t accepted by the practice until arriving at the front desk. This was just something practices and patients had to live with.

With the speed of real-time eligibility checking, the practice can now  consider performing that task as part of the scheduling process – potentially saving huge hassles for both the practice and the patient. However, in most practices, this change will require reconfiguring the roles of the people answering the phone and performing other front-office tasks. The process of retraining everyone on a new software tool also provides an opportunity to consider how to best deploy it – and even consider changing up roles and responsibilities to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.

As part of my webinar, “10 questions: Making the most of front-office technology,” I will be discussing the potential benefits that come with revamping workflow to get more out of the technology your practice is currently using. To learn more about this technology call us at 1.888.491.7900 and to view the webinar, please fill out the form below.

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