The Brave New World of Healthcare IT: Part II

Interoperability is the Key, Profitability and Patient Engagement the Result, Part II

Kathy McCoy, MBA
Follow her on Twitter @kathymccoy

In my last post, we Part I, discussed how a patient portal can be used to streamline the medical office, as outlined by Rochelle Glassman, founding partner of Phoenix Physician Services and now United Physician Services, LLC, and a nationally recognized healthcare consultant with experience in both the payer and provider arenas. The patient portal is just one part of utilizing technology to streamline the medical practice, from Glassman’s perspective. She describes a flow that, using existing technology, reduces costs and increases revenue:

  1. Online appointment scheduling – For the practice, as described above, the process begins with the patient making an appointment online. This results in reduced phone calls coming into the office, which reduces labor costs. “Instead of having 6 staff members on the phone in one office, with technology we were able to reduce that to 2 on the phone and one on the internet,” Glassman says. Also, the automated reminder helps to reduce no-shows.
  2. Online eligibility/benefits verification – Once the patient has made the appointment online, the office staff will proactively check eligibility and benefits/copay/deductible, get a pre-authorization as needed, etc., so that when the patient arrives in the office, the front office is ready to collect the patient payments before the appointment. This will improve profitability, since the likelihood of collecting patient payments declines from 80% before the appointment to 40% after the appointment.
  3. Self-registration kiosks – When the patient arrives in the office, they should have the option of checking in at a kiosk where they can update their demographics, if they haven’t already done it on the patient portal. This increases efficiency and offers the patient convenience.
  4. Download of patients’ vital stats – With new equipment that automatically downloads weight, blood pressure, etc., directly into the patient record, staff time and errors are reduced. The staff member simply keys in the reason for the visit, and the patient is ready to be seen.
  5. Instant lab orders, e-prescribing – According to an article by Amednews, as of June 2012, 48% of physicians were e-prescribing with an EHR, and this number will undoubtedly continue to increase. The convenience and quality assurance of e-prescribing and sending lab requests electronically, for both medical office and patients, has clearly been proven.
  6. In-office prescription dispensing – What Glassman recommends to many of her clients is that they should carry some meds in their offices and fill prescriptions on the spot. “If the office carries the top 15 most prescribed medications—inexpensive generics—it becomes a great convenience to the patient and a revenue source,” she says. Most medical suppliers can replace supplies within 24-48 hours, she says, so there’s no need to stock a large inventory. With a bar code scanner, the sale can be reported to the supplier immediately and supplies restocked quickly. All ordering should be online anyway, Glassman points out, to save time and reduce errors.
  7. Accurate checkout – When the patient’s visit is concluded, the office staff should be able to see the outstanding balance immediately on the practice management software—as long as the fee schedule is accurately loaded into the system. The staff can charge the patient for their balance, calculating the amount due at the time of service, and still collect the claim. But in the meantime, this speeds up the revenue cycle.
  8. Referral management – Glassman also points out that practices must use their software for referral management. “They need to track their referrals, they must be able to get a list of referring docs, and they should be looking at it monthly,” she says. “Too often doctors don’t realize that they’ve lost a referrer until it’s too late.”
  9. Accounts payable – Too many practices are still manually cutting checks to pay their bills, Glassman points out. She advises practices to streamline all of their accounting processes by using technology.

To achieve this level of technological coordination requires interoperability, obviously. But much of it is already in place. And with the benefits of labor and cost reduction, coupled with increased revenue, it’s clearly something practices need to implement. In my next post, we’ll look at how the technologically-enabled office will look from the patient perspective.

See Part 1 of this three part series – The Brave New World of Healthcare IT.

Kathy McCoy, MBA, has written on practice management and revenue cycle management for more than 5 years for leading medical software, medical marketing and medical billing companies. She has more than 17 years of experience in continuing medical education, developing programs with respected educational institutions including Columbia University, Johns Hopkins, and Cleveland Clinic. Contact Kathy at