The automation of tasks has been around for a very long time; all the way back to the Industrial Revolution. But automation in and of itself isn’t always the best answer. Investment in the right people supporting automation must be a significant part of any automation process for it to be successful.
In this ‘value over volume’ era, things like auto-phone answering systems may not be your best use of automation in bringing value. Sometimes there is no way around it in instances like after hours, when all phone lines are busy, and when staff is limited. But a fully trained staff (a real person on the phone) can bring value to people that a phone answering system will never accomplish.
On the other hand, automated claim scrubbing can bring real value to a practice bottom line. Which product to purchase requires the buyer to do some homework, talk to both vendors and users and spend time building and testing the product. In an average practice, thousands of dollars of claims are submitted to carriers on a regular basis. What is it worth to your practice to get paid the first time the right amount and coded to the highest specificity? Once again, the right people with the right skills are needed to successfully implement and maintain this revenue producing automation.
Regardless of your efforts to automate check-in processes (and I have seen it done successfully in several practices), a trained person to intervene when the patient gets lost or confused is a must for delivering value with the automation. Attentive front office people are your first line of defense for patients. If you get that wrong, you will lose patients notwithstanding of how good the doctor is.
Developing a practical and enforceable self-pay strategy is a must in this high deductible and co-pay world. Your revenue is becoming increasingly dependent upon self-pay dollars and the people who collect those dollars. Both the policy and the people must be well thought out. The best policy in the world means nothing if the right person isn’t there to collect it.
A well run EHR can organize data, create a database supporting reporting and increase staff efficiency and productivity. However, you must first select the right product for your practice, install it successfully, and train thoroughly while changing workflow to accommodate the automation.
Automation can bring enhanced revenue, better productivity of staff, and eliminate some staff positions but, unless done with knowledge and correct expectations, can kill a practice.