4 reasons practices should adopt benefits technology

2015 06 19 12 18 48 117 Martin Matt 200

I doubt that when many dentists first dreamed of going to dental school, checking patient eligibility, submitting insurance claims, or chasing down payments is what they pictured.

Given how time-consuming and painful those tasks can be, you'd think they would leap to sign up for free online portals that do the job faster and more efficiently. But in many cases, you'd be wrong.

The reality is that many still cling to the old ways of paper forms, phone calls, and snail mail. Within our own payor client base, almost 64% of their payees have registered for their provider Web portals. That means a little more than a third have not.

“In the time it takes to receive a paper authorization for one patient, you could have already started or completed the work on several.”

To me, that's mind-boggling. It's like filling out your taxes by hand instead of using a computer program, or waiting until the bank opens to get some quick cash rather than visiting an ATM.

Sure, change can be difficult, especially if you're not particularly technology-savvy. But this is a case where change can make a positive difference in your administrative workflow -- as well as your cash flow.

It's also important from a competitive point of view. In today's instant-everything world, patients lack patience. If you can't accommodate their schedules because it takes too long to do what you've always done, they'll find another provider who can. And you will be left in the dust.

The truth is there are all sorts of benefits to registering for -- and using -- a provider Web portal. Here are four of the most significant.

1. Faster authorization of services

With a traditional, paper-based system, it can take five to seven business days to fill out forms, mail them, and then finally receive authorization to perform a service. That's a long time to wait in the digital era.

On a portal, you can fill out and submit forms in minutes and cut the end-to-end time down to 24 to 48 hours, speeding the entire service delivery system. Looked at another way, in the time it takes to receive a paper authorization for one patient, you could have already started or completed the work on several. That alone should make it an easy decision. It does what clearinghouses do -- but for free.

This same principle applies to all the other forms (such as claims) you have to submit. A few minutes on a portal can cut days out of the equation.

2. Fewer errors

Using a provider Web portal to file claims can be a real game changer in another way. A good electronic claims system will actually catch most errors for you, calling them out for review so corrections can be made before submission.

Matt Martin, Web portal manager of Skygen USA.Matt Martin, Web portal manager of Skygen USA.

Here's an example of the difference a portal can make. A very large dental-provider group was having issues with mailed claims and authorization requests being denied because of missing information. All 25 of the group's locations were set up on a provider Web portal, and personnel were trained on how to use it. Because the portal guides them through the process, telling them what attachments are required and calling out when information is missing, the providers are no longer receiving those types of denials.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a claim can be paid within 24 to 48 hours if you've enabled electronic fund transfer. Which means you can already be paid in the time it takes for a paper claim to be mailed and received. That seems like a no-brainer.

3. Less wasted time on the phone

Making phone calls to check eligibility and following up on the status of claims and authorization requests can use up an inordinate amount of your administrative staff's time. Moving onto a provider Web portal allows your staff to search for and find the answers themselves quickly.

How much of a difference can this make? One provider with 11 locations was averaging 375 phone calls per month -- more than double the next-highest group. When that provider registered for and began using the payor's provider Web portal, their volume dropped below 75 calls per month. That represents a huge gain in efficiency.

4. Better security

One reason technology-averse providers give for not using a Web portal is that they are concerned about security of protected health information. In truth, it is actually safer to submit information through a secure Web portal than to expose it to a manual mailing process that takes three to five days -- assuming the technology provider adheres to the latest healthcare industry standards and best practices.

Storing your data electronically on a portal that is backed up instead of in manila folders in a file cabinet also protects it much more effectively from fire, flood, or other disasters.

With a portal, providers can view any new information, updates, or manuals payors release as soon as they are made available, rather than waiting for documents to arrive in the mail. If providers remember that something new came out, but they can't recall the details, they can search the portal and pull it up instantly, again allowing them to spend less time looking through paper and more time on patients.

Matt Martin is Web portal manager of Skygen USA, a consortium of benefit solution companies that includes Scion Dental. He can be reached at matthew.martin@skygenusa.com.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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