Are you a private practitioner looking to select a billing system or an integrated electronic billing and clinical documentation system? The prospect can seem daunting, especially if you’re trying to grow your business. Like many professionals, speech-language pathologists and audiologists get lots of formal education about the clinical aspects of practice, but little on business management topics like revenue-cycle management and the technology used to support it.
Whether you’re seeking a billing/documentation system for a new practice or you’re a seasoned private practitioner searching for a more effective system, it’s worth doing your research. Choosing the right system(s) can help your practice achieve:
- More consistent and effective management of the revenue cycle, resulting in consistent accounts-receivable balance information and net revenue collection experiences.
- Improved cash flow and revenue from improved claims completion and proactive management of payers.
- Higher patient and employee satisfaction through improved customer-focused processes that simplify billing and clinical documentation.
- Improved regulatory compliance through greater consistency and stronger control throughout the revenue cycle and clinical documentation processes.
- Readiness for the increasing demands of population health management such as documentation of quality, outcomes and costs.
To ensure that you select the right system for your practice, I recommend taking a series of steps in three phases.
Phase 1: Define the need and develop a portfolio of desired improvements.
- Assess your practice’s current state with key stakeholders (such as business partners, advisers, patients, physicians), reviewing processes, people and technology.
- Envision your practice’s future state with key stakeholders , identify value propositions (such as savings, cash acceleration) and the expected return on investment.
- Develop a set of functional requirements, such as staffing numbers and mix, office locations, and needed technological capacity.
Phase 2: Research possible options.
- Develop a Vendor Scorecard that lists selection criteria (such as vendor organization information, pricing and functionality). This scorecard will serve as a documentation tool during your research interviews with each of the vendors.
- Use ASHA’s list of technology vendors and related websites—one focused on audiology sources and the other for speech-language pathology EMRs and practice management sources—coupled with your functional requirements, to identify potential vendors.
- Conduct vendor research interviews and document the results on the Vendor Scorecard.
- Compare results of the vendor research with your functional requirements and narrow the list of potential candidates.
- Observe live demonstrations of the software and/or try it out.
- Perform reference checks.
- Update Vendor Scorecard from trial use, live demonstrations and reference checks.
Phase 3: Select the solution and prepare for implementation.
- Analyze Vendor Scorecard results with key stakeholders.
- Select the system(s).
- Review selection with legal and financial advisers.
- Negotiate the contract/agreement.
- Develop a migration strategy from the current to the future state that defines changes for people, processes and technology.
It’s worth spending the time and effort on a comprehensive search for your system. It can help ensure the vendor is the right fit, and can generate substantial financial and clinical value for your practice.
Jeanene M. Johnson, MA, CCC-SLP, owns Speech Inspiration, a private practice near Houston that focuses on pediatric disorders. She has 15 years’ experience working in a variety of settings including acute care hospitals, teaching hospitals, home health, schools, skilled nursing settings and inpatient rehabilitation centers. Johnson is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; 3, Voice and Voice Disorders; and 16, School-Based Issues. firstname.lastname@example.org.