One of the hottest and contentious topics at DSOs and private practices since the pandemic is employee turnover and talent acquisition at the office level; specifically for front office and office manager roles. According to the ADA, roughly 40% of dental practices nationwide report having open positions and say they are looking to hire new staff members. Among practices with openings, 90% report it is extremely difficult to find workers.
Those of us clinging to hope that things will return to normal should read this Harvard Business Review article that says the “Great Resignation” might be here to stay and it didn’t start with the Pandemic. The result is that we are asking office staff to do more with less, compounding the turnover issue. In these times, the most successful practices and groups are leveraging RCM technology and services in a way that produces a force multiplier effect. When deployed properly, your staff can view RCM technology as a partner that improves job satisfaction and helps them focus on what matters – patient care.
What can be automated?
Let’s limit the scope of the conversation to insurance verifications. It’s one of the tasks that most staff dread and takes an inordinate amount of time. Staff members typically spend around 4-6 hours of their day on the phone with insurance companies obtaining benefits breakdowns – and the other 2-4 hours maneuvering various insurance portals trying to get the same information. How many of your staff members currently tasked with this would say they enjoy this part of their day? It’s not a recipe for employee retention while making it difficult to find candidates excited to do this all day.
Turnover compounds the ever-present challenge of maintaining a level of timeliness and accuracy around this task. With recent turnover rates, team members must manage the verification process without adequate training or being truly invested in the accuracy of the information retrieved; negatively impacting any subsequent claims process.
Solution 1 – Call Center Based Insurance Verification “Automation”
The first thing many practices try is to outsource the entire verification process. For some, this is the ideal solution. The third party takes over the hassle of logging into portals, making phone calls to payers and updating the practice management system. As perfect as this sounds, however, there are two primary issues with this approach:
1. Accuracy – while offloading your own staffing issues to a third party sounds appealing, you’re just passing the employee turnover hot potato to someone else. One could argue these call center employees are even less invested in ensuring information accuracy than your own staff. When presenting a treatment plan worth thousands of dollars, accuracy is kind of a big deal. Outsourcing insurance verifications isn’t solving any of the underlying problems of it being a highly manual (inefficient) process. It’s simply outsourcing the accountability to an unknown quantity at the risk of thousands of dollars.
2. Cost – for those groups that have a fantastic call center partner that is highly accurate and timely, it generally comes with a high price. These partners typically charge per verification, eliminating the primary benefit of group practice economies of scale.
So, in order to improve on the outsourcing solution, we need a solution that addresses the accuracy concern while delivering economies of scale that ultimately increases profitability.
Solution 2 – Technology Based Automated Insurance Verifications
RCM technology has improved leaps and bounds over the past few years that allows for game-changing automation for insurance verifications. In the time it takes to call an insurance company, request a fax-back, obtain the fax-back, and scan it to the patient’s file – software automates that process for your entire schedule, verifying eligibility and obtaining benefits breakdowns in real-time. A task previously measured in hours can now be measured in seconds to minutes. Imagine staff walking into the office each day with their schedule already verified and benefits breakdowns automatically uploaded to the patient’s file. Automated insurance verifications done ahead of time, or in real-time.
Software retrieves data the same way, every time resulting in 100% precision and consistency. Software is built for economies of scale, the cost of running each additional verification is a fraction of what you’d expect to pay a call center.
What’s the real-world impact of this automation? Right now, Zuub clients experience an average time savings of around 70-90% on the task of insurance verification for RCM teams across the country. Why not 100%? Because there will always be instances when a particular data field for a given treatment and/or payer is unavailable via electronic channels. Collectively, the monthly time savings impact is significant and continuously increasing as a result of technology improvements. The most efficient RCM teams have become experts at partnering with technology to let it maximize their human capital resources. They’ve mastered the concept of return on time, shifting resources from verifying insurance to patient care or other revenue driving activities.
All Automation Solutions Are Not Created Equal
Realizing the time savings potential, technology companies have raced to add Insurance Verification Automation to their platforms. Marketing communication platforms, forms vendors and even VOIP providers have recently come to market promising to assist offices with insurance verification. If all of these companies have been able to offer the service, it’s easy to assume all Insurance Verification Automation platforms are similar, so how should we evaluate them?
- Ask if they provide full breakdowns, limitations and history or are limited to just eligibility
- Will the technology partner push verification data, including PDFs back into your PMS
- Are they limited to just the 50% of Insurance Payers exposing EDI or API connections or can they also access data from Payers that only provide a web portal and if is it truly automated or are they using a call center
- Can they blend data between EDI and portals to maximize total data retrieved
- Run far away from solutions that promise 100% verification ability (outside of call centers)
The Battle for Talent
RCM teams that can help their employees spend more time on patient care and less time chasing down fax-backs will win the battle for employee retention and talent acquisition. There are more meaningful tasks for teams to spend time on. Where would you like to see your team focusing their extra time while not on the phone with insurance companies this year?
Zuub is a venture backed technology company built by dental technology veterans that are reimagining RCM. The Zuub platform has both revenue generating and cost saving technologies that focus on data quality and availability, workflow automation while maximizing data transparency to patients and providers. Currently Zuub offers Insurance Verification, Case Acceptance and A/R automation products designed to delight your patients, staff and stakeholders.