Demystifying Managed Care Contracts to Keep Your ASC Profitable Part 1

Getting a handle on managed care contracts can be a mind-boggling task for ambulatory surgery center (ASC) leaders, but it is critical to profitable operations. Andrea Woodell, Regent RCM’s vice president of managed care, has extensive experience negotiating payer contracts. In this first blog in a 3-part series, she explores key payer contracting questions that impact profitability. Part 2 will offer “red flag” language to watch out for in negotiations with health plans, and the third blog will address specialty-specific contract tips.

According to Woodell, a center’s primary specialty is an overall driving force for payer contract negotiations. “And when a center adds a new line of business, it’s important to update contracts accordingly,” she says. “Each specialty has unique requirements that mandate how you structure a fee schedule in order to safeguard that specialty.”

When negotiating payer contracts, three key questions can have a big impact on ASC profitability:

How is your center performing overall by payer by service line?

“If you’re a single specialty ASC, this will be a fairly simple exercise,” Woodell says. “For example, if you’re doing GI or ophthalmology, you can evaluate as a percent of Medicare how each of the health plans is paying you for that specialty. In addition, you should always take into consideration the payer mix, prioritizing those contracts that you can influence.”

Beyond specialty and payer prioritization, factors influencing contract negotiations include what carve outs you can negotiate, how multiple surgeries and implants are paid, and how non-grouped procedures are paid.

“As a rule, there’s going to be an established rate baseline of what payers think they can contract in your community,” Woodell explains. “And they’re going to come in low. It’s important that you reply with an objective, logical approach to why their offer is not adequate. You want to give them little snippets of what the cost of the case is, by providing implant invoices or data on operating room time, associated recovery, disposables. Work with your partners to quantify outcomes, recovery or back to work and share this data with the payers. Member satisfaction remains a priority for carriers. All are important as you evaluate your service lines and how each payer reimburses.”

Once you’ve identified a health plan that’s reimbursing well, that contract can become your target for others. Woodell recommends a focus on best price, best customer to avoid enabling other payers to pay lower than a good customer.

How does performance by service line and payer affect operational margins?

“If you’re not making money, that’s the operational impact,” Woodell says. “You could have a contract that reimburses GI great, but if you also start doing general surgery and your implants aren’t covered you have a problem. For example, general surgery uses implants, hernias require mesh. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy uses a great deal of disposables that are expensive. When you negotiated your contract for just GI cases, you didn’t care if implants were covered, because you didn’t use them. But now you’re broadening the scope of your ASC and there’s no margin on the general surgery. Margin is driven by reimbursement by product line

What data should you be tracking for each payer?

Woodell suggests ASCs collect data on timely payment, payment accuracy, and data to ensure implants are being paid at the contracted rate. For instance, if a payer is late paying claims, are they paying the state penalty? And while there’s very little ASCs can do if payers stall, Woodell suggests they appeal and be sure to collect the interest. In addition, she says having patients call the health plan can help: “Health plans don’t like member complaints. If you have patients who are good advocates for themselves and for the surgeon, the health plan won’t hesitate to pay – with the shift in payment responsibility, patients pay a lot for their healthcare, and will be eager to step up to ensure the health plan is paying their share as dictated by benefit structure.

Another data point Woodell recommends: make sure payers are not inadvertently transferring the balance of what they owe to a patient responsibility. She says such transfers can happen within payer systems for several reasons.

Want to know more about demystifying the payer contracting process? Watch for the next two blogs in this series, or contact Woodell here.

How Does Your ASC Measure Up? Benchmarking Basics for Revenue Cycle Health

Until recently, when it came to “diagnosing” revenue cycle health, ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) often turned to hospital or physician practice metrics, due to a lack of revenue cycle measurement tools developed specifically for them. But ASCs really needed a view into revenue cycle performance that factored in the business challenges unique to their business model and circumstances.

Regent Revenue Cycle Management (Regent RCM) has addressed that need head on with development of ASC-specific benchmarking tools that ASC leaders can customize and deploy. In a white paper titled, “Using ASC-Specific Benchmarks to Assess the Health of Your Revenue Cycle,” Regent RCM shares nine ASC-specific benchmarks to help track and measure revenue cycle performance. The paper outlines how surgery centers can use the benchmarks to assess their revenue cycle; including understanding how numbers can be improved, why they might fluctuate and how they can often be misleading.

The benchmarks dive deep into key components that shape and define revenue cycle health, offering both a benchmark and a Regent RCM “Gold Standard” to help ASCs understand what’s optimal and work to improve in each of the following areas:

1. FTEs/1000 Cases
2. Days Outstanding/Days in AR
3. Percent of AR Over 90 Days
4. Claim Lag
5. Charge Lag
6. Statement Lag
7. Claim Denial Percent
8. Clean Claim Percent
9. Net Collection Rate

The white paper also includes examples of success gained through application of the benchmarks. For example, one facility in the southeast significantly improved the efficiency of its Accounts Receivable efforts through consistent follow-up with accounts and a more thorough understanding of how each payer processes claims. In another ASC, a high volume orthopedic center, collections were nearly doubled from May to December, with no significant changes to volume or case mix. In this case, Regent RCM’s benchmarks helped the ASC work with its clearinghouse to develop custom edits to ensure clean claim submission.

Regent RCM is a leading provider of innovative and cost-effective revenue cycle management services exclusively for ASCs. To learn more about the company’s benchmarking tools for ASCs, download the white paper here.

asc revenue cycle billing analysis

Uncovering Improvements through Denied Claim Cause Audits and Management

No ambulatory surgery center wants to miss out on revenue because of inefficient revenue cycle management practices.

An organized and streamlined revenue cycle requires an ASC to get every detail of coding, billing, and collections right the first time – and on time. By following a few straightforward – but important – steps, ASCs can review their current revenue cycle management processes and identify any problem areas that need to be resolved.

Regent RCM has developed a new guide that outlines three regular audits ASCs can incorporate to uncover mistakes and inefficiencies in order to enhance revenue cycle performance. The guide recommends three strategies to analyze and improve:

  1. Denied claim cause and management
  2. Coding accuracy
  3. Payer contract adhesion

In this blog, we outline the denied claim assessment and how to better manage these audits.

Around 10 to 20% of healthcare provider revenue is tied up in denials, and the top two causes for denied claims are missing information and inaccurate information. ASCs can dramatically improve their financial performance just by reducing the number of claim denials.

Regent recommends taking these actions to manage denials more effectively:

  • Act immediately. – Address every denied claim within a week of receiving notice from an insurance company.
  • Investigate the cause. – Reach out to the payer to understand why the claim was denied and how it can be amended.
  • Track past claims. – Analyze the reasons for denied claims and approaches that have been successful to tweak current processes.
  • Watch for patterns. – Pay attention to which errors, like misspelled names or missing information, are most common in denials.
  • Focus on prevention. – Remember that avoiding denied claims is the most effective way to minimizing days in A/R.

Learn how to implement this audit and our other strategies to uncover revenue cycle inefficiencies and boost financial performance. Download the guide.

Billing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them: Part 2

An ambulatory surgery center depends on an efficient revenue cycle management process for financial and operational stability. Because the revenue cycle involves complex and overlapping processes, an ASC needs a revenue cycle solution that can manage everything from billing and collections and payer contract negotiating to measurement and reporting and automated workflow tasks.

Billing mistakes can cause serious problems for an ASC, interfering with its immediate cash flow and long-term financial health. In a recent post, Regent RCM outlined prevention tactics for four common ASC billing errors. The second part of this series will examine four additional billing mistakes and how to avoid them.

  1. Not Reconciling Billing

It is crucial for ASCs to monitor patient files carefully, making sure that all performed procedures are billed and followed up on. Unbilled procedures result in lost revenue, damaging a center’s revenue cycle. Similarly, cases that are denied or rejected by the payer must be properly appealed or processed.

Solution: Utilize a system that tracks all performed cases and ensures that they are billed out within a certain timeframe. Use automated tools as much as possible, setting up notifications and reminders to follow up on claims or make edits as necessary.

  1. Neglecting to Appeal Claims

Inaccurate payments are unfortunately commonplace within the revenue cycle. The real problem arises when ASCs fail to appeal incorrect or incomplete payments in a timely manner. If a center doesn’t maintain a quick and streamlined appeals process, it can fall into harmful patterns and struggle to meet its financial goals.

Solution: Address flawed payments right away, setting a specific turnaround for sending out appeals. Regent RCM’s standard is to appeal all under- and no-pay claims within 24 hours.

  1. Not Measuring Performance

Unidentified problems can’t be fixed. Kept busy with day-to-day responsibilities, ASCs often neglect to monitor key performance metrics of their revenue cycle – and any problems with net collection rates, A/R days, or statement, charge, or claim lags remain unresolved.

Solution: Implement measurement and reporting software to track specific benchmarks in the revenue cycle. Gauge the current health of the ASC’s performance, and set goals going forward. For example, the Regent RCM gold standard net collection rate is a minimum of 97%.

  1. Errors in Payment Posting

Erroneous payment posting can lead to confusion and financial losses for an ASC. A simple mistake, such as a typo in a payment amount, has a domino effect: an incorrect patient responsibility and billing statement, back-and-forth communication with the patient, a statement adjustment, and so on.

Solution: Check that all billing, payment, and collection information reconcile properly. If it is a challenge to manage the process with in-house staff, outsource it to a company with expertise in revenue cycle management. Regent RCM uses sophisticated software to post payments, ensure that they are paid according to contract, and turn over bad debts to collections.

Need expert assistance in improving your revenue cycle management? Contact Regent RCM

3 Advantages to Outsourcing RCM

Streamlined revenue cycle management (RCM) is key to an ambulatory surgery center’s long-term financial success.

The revenue cycle is multifaceted, involving every aspect of coding, billing, claims submissions, and collections. “Because healthcare providers need to expend significant resources to manage the revenue cycle internally, many are choosing to outsource RCM in order to increase efficiency and reduce expenses,” said Regent RCM Director of Revenue Cycle Management Erin Petrie. The RCM market in North America is expected to experience a growth rate of 12% by 2021, according to a MicroMarket Monitor report.

Outsourcing RCM is projected to expand as ASC leaders recognize its benefits:

  • Enhancing quality of care while reducing costs
  • Increasing transparency and accountability
  • Improving cash flow and stabilizing the overall revenue cycle

Ambulatory surgery centers that opt to outsource RCM gain several competitive advantages:

  1. Specialized Expertise

The revenue cycle management landscape is not static; it is changing at a rapid pace. For healthcare providers to keep up with the latest updates to Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and other guidelines, they must employ RCM specialists on their administrative staff to get optimal results.

Outsourcing RCM is a far more effective and affordable option for many ASCs. A company that specializes in revenue cycle management offers ASCs expertise in developing, executing, and refining billing and collection strategies. “These RCM experts know how to handle the most complicated challenges and plan for any imminent changes,” said Petrie.

  1. Smart Staffing

For ASCs to manage the revenue cycle internally, they must employ an experienced billing and coding staff with built-in redundancies. This costly investment is a necessity for in-house RCM; cutting corners and hiring inexperienced employees can cost ASCs hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

Outsourced RCM providers are ideally positioned to attract experienced staff with deep knowledge of the revenue cycle. They are RCM specialists, so they know how to recruit and hire the best employees in the industry, often maintaining a pipeline of qualified applicants waiting for a spot to open up. They also offer competitive salaries and benefits, and situate their offices in desirable locations.

  1. Best-in-Class Technology

ASCs often do not have the appropriate tools or resources to manage the revenue cycle in-house. ASC leaders are juggling tight budgets and favoring patient care over improved billing resources, and it’s simply not practical to invest in the most up-to-date RCM software and tools.

By outsourcing RCM, centers can take advantage of economies of scale and gain access to best-in-class technology. The team at Regent RCM uses three powerful technologies to track and automate the revenue cycle process:

  • A Management Information Systems (MIS) platform that helps maximize profitability, lower A/R days, and achieve faster reimbursement
  • Clearinghouse software that makes workflows more efficient, improving patient experiences and reducing outstanding balances
  • A reporting and analytics dashboard that creates real-time customized reports and offers deep insights into an ASC’s operations

Learn more about optimizing your ASCs revenue cycle through outsourcing by conducting a Self-Audit.

What is Regent RCM’s RISE Program?

Regent Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) is a values-driven company. We are committed to upholding our high industry standards and providing essential services to our ASC clients, all while staying true to our fundamental ideals.

We created the RISE program as a way to integrate our core values into every aspect of Regent RCM’s corporate culture, including how we lead our employees, how we nurture our client relationships, and how we meet and exceed our shared goals.

RISE stands for:

  • Respectful Caring
  • Integrity
  • Stewardship
  • Efficiency

Our team strives to leverage these principles to deliver exceptional service and value to our ambulatory surgery center clients. Here’s a little more about each of the RISE values.

Respectful Caring

Compassion is central to Regent RCM’s mission, and our employees exercise it consistently with clients, patients, and other team members. Regent RCM’s revenue cycle professionals are friendly, responsive, and helpful in communicating with all stakeholders. They supply information, answer questions, listen to feedback, and act promptly to serve patient and client needs.

Integrity

We cultivate an environment of commitment, accountability, and honesty – reflecting our beliefs through our actions and words. All of our employees take pride in their work, striving to perform their responsibilities reliably, and go above and beyond expectations. Regent RCM welcomes open communication, celebrating successes and resolving challenges with transparency.

Stewardship

Regent RCM isn’t satisfied to maintain the status quo; our team aims to foster growth and advancement throughout the company. We develop new procedures, educational programs, and quality improvement initiatives to move toward our long-term goals. We also treat our employees as our most valuable asset, hiring people who are passionate about Regent RCM’s work, and offering ongoing mentorship and professional development opportunities to elevate their capabilities.

Efficiency

We identify, select, and manage our company’s resources to achieve the most affordable and effective results for our stakeholders. Regent RCM utilizes a proactive approach to determine the technology, systems, and equipment that will improve processes while lowering costs. We are always looking for innovative solutions to help us manage our time and complete our tasks more efficiently.

Learn more about Regent RCM.

Internal Auditing for ASCs: Are You Receiving Maximum Revenue?

How would you rate the overall financial health of your ambulatory surgery center?

Are you producing maximum revenue – or are you running into obstacles that interfere with your profitability?

As an ASC administrator, you have an extensive to-do list on any given day. However, it’s important to make time to step back and look at your big-picture financial goals and processes.

Conducting an internal revenue cycle audit is an effective way to evaluate your ASC’s operations, identifying financial stress points, strengths, and opportunities. An internal audit examines, quantitatively and qualitatively, all components of the revenue cycle process. It helps you ask the right questions to reveal what is working and what can be improved, helping your center get on track and stay on track.

If you’ve noticed negative changes in important benchmarks, such as accounts receivable days, net collection rates, or statement and charge lags, a revenue cycle audit may be the best course of action.

According to Regent RCM’s Director of Revenue Cycle Management Erin Petrie, a successful self-audit focuses on four main financial areas of an ASC:

Reimbursement

Do a thorough examination of your center’s billing and reimbursement procedures, paying close attention to payer contracts and total revenue collected.

Coding and Billing

Evaluate coding procedures, whether your ASC has a certified coder on staff or outsources services. Determine if cases are coded and billed correctly, identifying inaccuracies that could delay, reduce, or invalidate claims.

Staffing

Assess how administrative employees spend their time and what causes their pain points. What

facilitates smooth operations? What requires excessive time or effort to accomplish?

Observation

Scrutinize business office functions over time, noting recurring inconsistencies or inefficiencies. Look for solutions, through technology or processes, that could address these problems.

To help you get started, the experts at Regent Revenue Cycle Management have developed a free guide, “How to Self-Audit and Improve Your ASC’s Financial Health.” It takes an in-depth look at key revenue cycle functions, giving you the information you need to keep your ASC within compliance while producing maximum revenue. Download the full guide here.

Meet the Team: Dacia Aviles

In our ongoing Meet the Team feature, we introduce the many members of our team who make Regent RCM so successful.  Today we shine the spotlight on:

Dacia Aviles

Where is your hometown? Born and raised on the North Side of Chicago near Wrigley Field. So you know what that means…. Go Cubbies!

What do you do at Regent RCM? I’m a Revenue Cycle Specialist. I’m responsible for billing, payment posting and account receivables for a surgery center.

How long have you been working at Regent RCM? I started January 2018, so I’m still new to Regent, but I carry 18 years of revenue cycle experience as well.

Where did you work before joining Regent RCM? Prior to joining the team, I worked for Anne & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital.

What is your favorite part about working at Regent RCM? I love Regent RCM’s friendly and respectful ambience, everyone is willing to help with any question I have. I also like the concept of working for one client because I’m able to see that difficult accounts are resolved almost instantaneously. When several individuals are working the same client account it can get messy. RegentRCM’s method and approach is much more effective!

What has been your greatest professional achievement? When I worked at Loyola I was doing Physician reimbursement for out of state Medicaid. At that time there wasn’t much experience with out of State. so I had to take the initiative to learn the rules of each state and figure out how to generate reimbursement.  It turned out that Indiana was the largest population coming to Loyola’s ER. I was able to create a guide from beginning to end with instructions on how to enroll providers, bill correctly and learn to reach EOB’s. Once I finalized the guide, I was seeing payments come in so that Loyola can continue to succeed. When it was time for me to leave Loyola I felt the guide I created was greatly appreciated by the next person. I know what it feels like to not know and needing to learn a whole new ball game.

What is one fun fact about yourself your co-workers don’t know? I love crafting and the kid in me loves Roller-Skating…two of my happy places.

3 Tips to Maximize Surgery Center Billing and Coding

Regent RCM’s gold standard for days outstanding is 30 days or less, although the right number for a center could range from the mid- to high teens all the way up to 50, depending on payer mix and case mix. In this blog post, we’ve summarized 3 ways to keep days outstanding in check.

Manage Lags and Turnaround Time

Claims should always be sent the same day charges are entered, so the claim lag should be the same as the charge lag. If centers are experiencing a significant difference between the two, this is an indication that your billing department may be holding claims or that they’re entering charges prior to receiving the operative report. Managing lags and turnaround time is one of the easiest ways to decrease your days outstanding. “The charge entry lag is measured from the date of service to the date charges are entered. The charge entry lag should be less than five days, with the gold standard being less than two and a half days.” Said Erin Petrie, Regent RCM’s Director of Revenue Cycle Management.

Conduct Periodic Coding Audits

It is extremely important to conduct periodic coding audits by an outside coding company, whether your center outsources its coding services or employs a certified coder. “Regent coordinates bi-annual audits on all of our centers using an outside firm. By doing so, we eliminate the conflict of interest a regular coding company may have in finding coding errors in the hopes of gaining additional clients. All centers should be held to an acceptable standard above 90 percent accuracy but be given a chance to rebut coding inaccuracies found during an audit,” said Petrie.

Some disparities found during our coding audits center around what was performed during the procedure and what was dictated. Sound coding practice is to always code from the operative report and not from the procedure.

Choose the Right Clearinghouse

Choosing the right clearinghouse can make a significant difference in the efficiency of your business office. Most clearinghouses can send electronic claims and receive electronic remittance (ERA). ZirMed and others set themselves apart by performing electronic eligibility in either batch or individual mode, providing real-time statuses and having the ability to setup center-defined, custom claim edits. In addition, ZirMed rolled out a new enhancement recently which allows some of our centers to send worker’s comp claims, traditionally sent on paper, electronically by matching up a scanned operative report to the electronic claim. This has caused a decrease in our A/R greater than 90 days for worker’s comp, which is habitually one of the more challenging financial classes.

Keeping days outstanding to a minimum is a worthy task for all ASCs, one that requires constant diligence and strong organizational efforts from everyone involved in the process. The fruits of this labor can lead to steadier collections, a more organized business office, and more integrity in your reporting data

Learn more about Regent RCM’s expert billing and coding services for ASCs

4 Reasons ASCs Fail and How to Manage for Success

While many trends in healthcare today point to the value of outpatient care, ambulatory surgery centers can still falter if they fail to actively manage risk in critical areas. The experts at Regent Revenue Cycle Management have observed four common mistakes, and together with Regent Surgical Health, can help centers turn each challenge into an opportunity for growth.

  1. Poorly Managed Contracts
    ASC administrators face a variety of challenges when it comes to successfully managing their payor contract negotiations. One common problem is that often hard-working and well-intentioned administrators and office managers are too busy balancing numerous job responsibilities to dedicate the needed persistence and focus required to successfully negotiate expiring payor contracts. But with careful preparation, ASC administrators can keep more money to reward and fuel center growth by negotiating payor contracts that will adequately cover the full cost of services and ultimately streamline healthcare costs for all. Key strategies include: incorporating Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) changes into contracting, planning for future case mix changes and updated procedures, building in annual increases and multi-year contract increases, and overall caution/careful attention to terms when it comes to preferred provider organizations (PPO) and third-party administrators (TPA).
  2. Skyrocketing Costs
    Monitoring expenses and tracking trends are essential to managing costs. For example, if a center is losing money on unprofitable cases and inefficient supply management, tools that help keep administrators in the know can help immensely. To address this problem, Regent has spearheaded solutions like the use of electronic preference cards to replace old, less precise metrics. Electronic preference cards provide a wide swath of data, as information is collected and compared across member facilities to get a clear picture of supply expenditures. This allows surgery centers to discern which physician items are driving up costs, and find out where real savings can be captured. In addition, Regent has found that integrating the information with the help of electronic procurement systems like Inventory Optimization Solutions (IOS) helps ASCs better manage costs throughout a single center as well as throughout the entire organization.
  3. Failure to Bring in High-Reimbursement Cases
    To succeed in an era of tightening reimbursement practices, an ASC needs to stay ahead of the competition by adding profitable procedures that may not be available elsewhere, or risk losing such cases to the competition. Procedures with potential to deliver strong profits include (among others) major spine cases and total joint replacements (TJR). Moving TJR surgeries to an ASC makes sense for many reasons, both clinical and financial. It is important to first assess outcomes on an inpatient versus outpatient basis to see whether the results vary by setting type or provider.
  4. Revenue Cycle Management
    The way an ASC manages the revenue cycle can make or break its profitability. And with the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid payment bundling, and updated ICD-10 guidelines looming, the revenue cycle landscape is changing at a rapid pace. Specialized expertise is required to ensure optimal results while anticipating new opportunities, and revenue cycle management can’t be an afterthought. The team Regent RCM understands the intricacies of the ASC revenue cycle, where problems commonly occur and how to fix them, as well as how to optimize reimbursement.

Are you interested in auditing your operations to ensure your ASC is maximizing revenue? A self-audit guide is available download here and will help identify your center’s financial stress points, strengths, and opportunities.

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