Time to Automate

By Wendy Becofsky

Founded in 1964, now nationally recognized, Mohawk Ambulance Service is the largest privately owned ambulance service in upstate New York. Our organization services six emergency centers, makes 56,000 trips annually and employs a team of more than 250 staff members. Eighty percent of our trips are for emergency transports where patients are unknown, in critical condition or have no identifying information. Finding fast, efficient ways to verify demographics and discover insurance coverage for these patients is imperative for our revenue cycle and our bottom line.

We’ve always worked closely with our local hospitals and nursing homes to obtain information. Many standard processes have been refined over the years with checks and balances to verify coverage, screen deductibles and reduce eligibility-related rejections before claims are submitted to a payor. But our billing team knew we could do more to eliminate duplicate data entry and processing lag time.

This article describes our journey to a more streamlined billing process. It includes lessons learned and best-practice recommendations for other EMS providers looking to improve staff efficiency and reduce receivables.

First Stop: Real-Time Insurance Discovery

The first area we tackled was insurance discovery where we had three employees stationed. We focused on our self-pay patients and transports lacking complete demographic or insurance information. The goal was to eliminate manual steps and workflow lags—which we quickly achieved.

The original process involved building a list, submitting it to Payor Logic, waiting three days for feedback, and then re-entering information into our billing system. By bringing our vendors together to meet with our team, a real-time technology solution was developed and implemented.

Now our insurance verification team has immediate access to Payor Logic’s search capabilities. Insurance discovery is an online, real-time process. Lists, batches, searching websites and waiting for results have all been eliminated. Also, the two vendors built a crosswalk that integrates insurance coverage results back into our billing system to eliminate duplicate data entry and rekeying.

The productivity our verification team is now able to achieve is amazing. They now do the work of three staff with only two employees—a 30 percent boost in staff efficiency for insurance verification.

Billing also Gets Tech Boost

At Mohawk, we use a combination of technology solutions to support our revenue cycle. But each company worked independently—creating separate silos. Billers would have to search across several different systems, payor websites and the digital pages to collate all the various demographic and insurance data required to submit a claim. We had technology, but the process remained cumbersome and labor intensive.

By working with our vendors, we built points of integration to increase the number of claims processed without adding billing staff. For example, once a biller pulls up a trip, dozens of data elements from the billing system are uploaded into a single view to eliminate searching and save time.

Everything the biller needs to complete a claim is displayed in a consolidated view, consistent across all Mohawk companies. Billers can easily see patient signature, facility signature, narrative, vital signs, advanced life support and more. This level of integration eliminates the need to look at every page of the system to build the claim—saving dozens of hours every week.

Lessons Learned

Like most EMS providers, our mission is to uphold the highest standard of services with consistent devotion to delivering superior emergency medical care. And through this automation project, we took service excellence one step further—delivering world-class service throughout our billing process. We find more insurance coverage, reduce eligibility-related rejections, convert self-pay accounts and collect more revenue from the right source. Results thus far include:

  1. 30% improvement in staff efficiency for insurance verification
  2. 67% less time needed per case to screen for Medicare deductibles
  3. 100% elimination of wait times to discover billable insurance for self-pay patients

EMS providers looking to streamline the billing process should revisit their existing technology applications and engage in serious discussions with current vendors. New capabilities are out there and should be explored. The automation efforts described above have resulted in an efficiency uptick for Mohawk, despite being short staffed. New workflows for verification are being maintained by our team and next steps for automation expansion are being discussed. By keeping open communications and an ongoing dialogue with all parties involved, this automation experience has been a win-win for our business, our staff and our patients.

This article, Time to Automate, was featured in the American Ambulance Association blog, April 2017 – View original »