It's no easy task running a healthcare organization. Not only are operating costs sky-high but simply getting reimbursed for your services is as challenging as ever. In this environment, it's understandable why clinic managers would be reluctant to take on added costs that don't directly contribute to the organization's bottom line.
It's this viewpoint that has kept many organizations from using medical scribes and enjoying all the added value they bring. In our last post, we laid out how medical scribes can boost an organization's bottom line by supporting providers, but that's not where the benefits end. Medical scribes can also contribute directly to revenue by efficiently and accurately collecting patient and treatment data. Here's how:
For many clinics, tracking quality metrics is an essential component of clinic revenue. Over the last ten years, health plans have increasingly turned toward statistics like the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) to determine a clinic's ability to deliver efficient and effective care. Those that can meet those high quality standards are then rewarded with performance bonuses.
To demonstrate their effectiveness, clinics rely on patient data pulled from their EHR systems. However, that data is only useful if it's accurate and entered in the appropriate fields. To ensure they're reporting accurate data, many clinics conduct regular medical record reviews (MRR), which are both costly and time-consuming. According to one estimate, providers spend over 15 hours per week on the MRR process. Altogether, the industry spends $15.4 billion annually to report quality metrics.
Much of this cost stems from having poorly trained or distracted team members handling patient documentation. If a physician must examine a patient, while at the same time recording the encounter in the EHR, they're more likely to make data entry errors. The same is true for other staff members, like medical assistants, who may be tasked with data entry as a component of their job.
By comparison, medical scribes are highly-trained experts who are comfortable working with the major EMR systems. They are also laser-focused on accurately recording the patient encounter into the EMR. That results in fewer errors, reduced MMR costs, and increased performance bonuses.
Medical coding is a critical component of an organization's revenue cycle. If billing codes aren't accurate, payers will often deny or only partially reimburse providers. This leads to a vicious cycle where physicians and support staff spend countless hours correcting and resubmitting claims so they can receive the reimbursement they deserve. All this added labor places tremendous financial and workforce strain on healthcare organizations and diminishes the actual value of the important services they provide. Large systems with plenty of available staff time suffer less. However, smaller clinics have fewer resources available to correct these errors. By some estimates, family physicians lose 10-20% of reimbursement each year because of incorrect coding.
Incomplete or inaccurate documentation is a big contributor to coding errors. After all, if a chart doesn't give an accurate and thorough explanation of the patient encounter, it will be a challenge for coding staff to bill for your services accurately and thoroughly. That's why it is critical to have a team member dedicated to documenting every encounter from beginning to end. With medical scribes in place, clinics can count on charts being correct and completed the same day. That means completed charts are sent to billing faster and will be rejected less often due to error. Imagine what a difference it would make if a family physician could recover 10% of their reimbursement each year. Now imagine the difference that could make across a healthcare system.
They say the devil is in the details, and that's certainly true for healthcare revenue. For many providers, this process begins the moment a patient sits down for their appointment. By minding every detail of these interactions, and accurately documenting them, medical scribes can help providers track quality measurements and improve reimbursement. Both these areas directly impact a healthcare organization's bottom line.
If you'd like to learn more, Scribe-X can help. We're a Portland, Oregon-based medical scribe staffing company that offers flexible solutions to organizations across the country. Contact us today for a free customized cost analysis that will show how your scribe program could break even in as little as six weeks.