patient statement efficiency

July 9, 2010
Cutting down the time and money expended to perform daily administrative tasks such as statement generating, processing insurance claims, and payment processing can make a significant improvement in the health of a practice.

By Scott D. Leeper, Vice President, PracticeWorks Systems, LLC

There’s no question about it. A dental practice needs a reliable revenue stream to stay healthy. Dental hygienists, dentists, dental assistants, and office managers dedicate a majority of their time to providing the best care to their patients as possible, as well as attracting new patients. Cutting down the time and money expended to perform daily administrative tasks such as statement generating, processing insurance claims, and payment processing can make a significant improvement in the health of a practice.

Statement Generation

The issue for many practices is that it costs too much money to collect money, even with conscientious patients. There’s the upfront investment in statement-related materials, such as forms, outgoing and return envelopes, printers and ink, labor costs, and more. Then there’s the time lost; many practices can bill only one time per month due to the many hours of staff time occupied by in-house billing. As the degree of customization of individual statements increases, so does the necessary time investment.

All told, preparing and sending traditional statements costs too much money and takes away too much time from patients. Fortunately, available services dramatically reduce this lengthy process, such Electronic Statement Service.

There are several advantages to using an electronic statement service:

• An electronic statement service allows the same level of control a practice has when processing statements in-house. Statements can be customized with a general or personalized message, individual statements can be removed from the batch, and all statements can be reviewed before they’re sent out.

• Electronic statement services in combination with cycle billing opens up the option of billing frequently — even daily — to help speed remittance.

• The quality of the output is generally much higher as a result of the professional equipment used to print statements.

• If you have a patient’s e-mail address, you can leverage online statement presentation, a green alternative that eliminates paper and provides definitive confirmation that the patient received the statement.

By using an electronic statement service, time and materials used are cut down, ultimately saving money as a result. Instead of hours printing and folding statements and then stuffing and stamping envelopes, you can send statements with just a few mouse-clicks. With an electronic statement service, it simply costs less to accomplish the same thing. The flat, per-statement fee cost is lower than the amount it costs to generate statements in-house.

Processing Insurance Claims

By switching to an electronic claims submission, the amount of time spent processing insurance claims decreases dramatically. The time saved can be used by staff members for other revenue generating activities. Extra validation steps that are performed as part of the electronic claim submission process also improves the accuracy of the data submitted, which reduces errors and speeds up reimbursement. Another advantage of electronic claim submission is that it ensures compliance with privacy and security regulations, an important step in addressing HIPAA regulations.

Leveraging technology to eliminate paper and reduce phone calls from insurance companies will improve the productivity of your office. As a final benefit, electronic claims have a built-in mechanism for tracking them into the insurance company’s system, which provides a way to improve accountability through the claims reimbursement process.

Payment Processing

Besides offering excellent patient care, practices also like to offer patients convenience and flexibility, especially when it comes to payment options. Integrating payment options like credit card services or patient financing options improves treatment plan acceptance and make it easier for patients to manage their financial obligations. When these services are an integrated part of the office workflow, they provide a simple way collect co-pays and non-covered procedures at the time of service.

Combining in-office payment services with an online option will reduce receivables, since a patient is more likely to pay their balance sooner if they can do so online instead of filling out a payment form and mailing it back to an office. With online payments, a typical concern is security. However, PCI compliant electronic payment services provide security measures that ensure safe processing and receipt of a payment.

The bottom line is that reducing the number of hours and money spent on administrative tasks like billing results in more time to devote to the health of your patients and practice. The transition to a third-party service is usually seamless as the most vendors offer product demonstrations, live customer service representatives, and assistance integrating their service with existing computer platforms.

About the Author:
Mr. Leeper has been in the transaction processing business since 1983. Initially coding remittance processing software solutions for General Instruments Corp. and BancTec, Scott began working on Electronic Data Interchange for the dental industry in 1991. He created what has become one of the largest clearinghouses devoted exclusively to dental transaction processing, which is a part of the business unit he currently manages for the PracticeWorks subsidiary of Carestream Health. Mr. Leeper has a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and a master’s in engineering science from Loyola College, Maryland. He is a current member and former Director for the National Dental EDI Council.