5 Steps to New Revenue Streams for Medical Billing Companies in the Era of the EHR


Medical Market Analyst, Software Advice

Some medical billing services view electronic health records (EHRs) with apprehension. After all, EHRs can automatically assign insurance codes and check for submission errors–steps which billing services vendors currently perform. Might doctors assume the EHR will render a medical billing service unnecessary? Should billing services be worried?

Based on observations made as more practices have transitioned to EHRs, billing service providers should view the EHR as an ally, not a threat. EHR-related assistance services represent a lucrative opportunity for billing services to generate new revenue streams while strengthening ties to their medical practice clients.

Here are five steps billing service companies should take to seize that opportunity.

1. Know What EHRs Don’t Offer

Rather than looking fearfully at EHRs, educate yourself. If a doctor hints that she’s thinking of phasing out your services, be prepared to talk to her about what her EHR can’t do.

Even if the EHR has some sophisticated billing features, ask: Can the EHR make collection calls? Arrange for payment plans from patients? Obtain correct supporting documents? Identify opportunities for upcoding? Make follow-ups?

“The reality is that the software doesn’t replace you at all,” said Ian Gary, senior national salesman at EHR vendor HealthFusion who discussed the topic with me at length.

2. Know What You Can Offer

After you establish that some parts of medical billing can only be done by a well-trained human being, the next step is to communicate to your clients that your team is in the ideal position to help them with their EHR transition. Your employees are most likely already well-versed in how their EHR system works since many billing services work with multiple EHR vendors.

Moreover, who better to advise a practice than the company that is already familiar with their diagnostic codes, terminology and pain points? As Steven Tolle, Vice President of Solutions Management at EHR vendor Allscripts said in an article on the topic, “[Third-party billing companies] have the trust of physicians, and you can leverage that to expand your business.”

3. Extend Your Services

There are a variety of EHR-related value-added services you can offer clients, including:

  • On-site support on the medical practice's "go live" date–a service many EHR vendors don't offer
  • EHR template customization assistance
  • Ongoing on-call EHR troubleshooting support

You might also consider different models for how you deliver services. For example, Gary mentioned that, particularly for small-town practices, people may be wary of learning about their software from “just a voice on the phone,” preferring to do business “with people they’re going to see in church on Sunday.” Offering on-site training may be far more appealing for these doctors than the virtual training provided by many EHR vendors–especially if you have team members based near their location.

4. Emphasize the Convenience and Personalization You Offer

Doctors outsource billing to service providers like you because they can make more money treating patients than doing paperwork. The same logic goes for tweaking their EHR systems. That’s where you come in. Find ways to save doctors time and trouble, allowing them to focus on patient care. Offer to build them templates that will feel intuitive and natural, and tailored to their practice needs. Program their most common diagnostic codes. Do whatever it takes to make their lives easier, and they’ll be happy to cut you a check.

5. Know You’re Strengthening Client Relationships

In addition to generating extra income, billing services that provide extra value to doctors are differentiating themselves and are making it less compelling for a practice to switch to a different billing service. If it takes some time to set the systems in place, keep in mind that the work will pay off later.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to share in the comments section below any thoughts you have on something I’ve missed in this discussion!

Thumbnail photo credit: Flick user AMagill

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