If your ASC business office is not meeting their performance metric benchmarks, it may be time to re-evaluate your revenue cycle management policies and procedures. Business office personnel who serve on the front-end (scheduling and insurance verification, for example) and those who serve on the back-end (billing office personnel) must work as a team to achieve your ASC’s key performance indicators.
There are natural checkpoints built in to revenue cycle management. When striving to meet performance benchmarks, you and your staff can take advantage of these natural checkpoints if you know how to use them. For example, both your patient accounting system and clearinghouse have resources available to help identify opportunities for improvement. Additionally, internal tracking processes, including logs and dashboards, allow you to sort through preventable errors and identify staff members who need additional education and training.
Regular evaluation of revenue cycle policies and procedures on the front and back end of your process can assist supervisors, managers, and administrators address weaknesses, improve performance, and enhance your ASC’s bottom line.
Where do you start?
Begin your evaluation at the initial receipt of patient information. Schedulers and insurance verification personnel are at the front end of your financial flow. Accurate data entry is crucial to proper registration, eligibility, and authorization. Data entry errors, including incorrect policy numbers or failure to obtain subscriber date of birth, may create billing delays. To minimize unnecessary rejections and denials, consider developing and using a scheduling checklist.
A scheduling checklist includes guidelines on information your surgery schedulers must collect to ensure there are no omissions or errors when the ASC billing office submits a claim. This tool can reduce time delays in claim filing and eliminate the need to re-work rejected claims. Regular review of clearinghouse rejections can help you create and add to your scheduling checklist by identifying areas in which staff may be prone to making errors.
Monitoring patient benefits
Schedulers and insurance verification personnel also need a solid understanding of patient benefits. Knowing how to determine a patient’s outstanding deductible, predict coinsurance, pre-collect co-payments, and coordinate patient benefits are essential to success. To automate this process, integrate your clearinghouse whenever possible. Insurance websites also provide free tools that assist in determining patient benefits, eligibility, and financial responsibility. Evaluate the accuracy, efficiency, and effectiveness of your scheduling and verification team by running reports from your patient accounting system. Review the total dollars pre-collected each month and challenge your team to break their record the following month. Celebrate their successes! And ensure you educate staff about when and why to use an Advance Beneficiary Notice (ABN).
Establishing self-pay policies for procedures performed at the facility which are not covered by insurance is also important. Ensure your team is familiar with in-network insurance carriers as well as the procedures and implants those carriers reimburse. Insurance carriers regularly publish and update pre-authorization lists. Track and evaluate denials attributable to no authorization, non-coverage due to place of service, and out-of-network write-offs. Set targets for the ASC business office team to increase collections and decrease denials. When target goals are met, reward your team for their efforts. Motivation and direction make a difference when seeking improvements.
What happens after submitting a claim?
Once a case is billed, use denial tracking to identify areas of education for coders and surgeons. Encourage coding staff to take a second look at medical necessity denials. A simple query to the physician can mean the difference between payment and non-payment. Review this information to identify areas for improvement. Denials related to bundling might mean a coder requires additional education on proper modifier use. Medical necessity denials can indicate operative note templates need to be updated or coding staff need additional access to pertinent patient records.
Educate everyone about the cases that can and cannot be performed in your ASC. National Correct Coding Initiative (NCCI) edits and a list of approved ASC procedures can be found on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website or the website for the facility’s Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC). Centralize front and back end staff access to your approved procedures lists and assign someone to review and update them on a regular basis.
Another checkpoint technique is separating the duties of your charge entry, payment posting, and follow-up teams. This introduces another layer of accountability. As your accounts receivable (follow-up) personnel work their aging reports, they can identify charge entry and payment posting habits that require education or training to improve accuracy and timeliness of account resolution. Payment posters will provide a second set of eyes on write-offs and can supply additional insight into tackling appeals and securing reimbursement. Accounts receivable personnel can also prevent timely filing issues by following up on accounts as soon as 30-45 days after the date of service. Regular reconciliation of unbilled claims in comparison to cases performed prevents missed cases.
Improving the flow in the ASC business office
There are numerous opportunities to tighten the flow of patient information from scheduling to final payment. Cross-checking information at critical points in the ASC revenue cycle reduces billing delays and preventable denials. Separation of duties among ASC billing office staff allows you to build natural checkpoints into your system, preventing costly errors including unnecessary write-offs. Once areas for improvement have been identified, set achievable goals and timelines for your staff, then celebrate their successes.
Bethany Bueno, Director, Billing Operations, Specialty Billing Solutions
 An Advance Beneficiary Notice (ABN) is given to patients to forewarn that Medicare may deny payment for their treatment.
 A bundling denial occurs when a procedure requires a qualifying procedure be received and covered and the qualifying other procedure has not been performed or adjudicated. A denial related to unbundling occurs when several CPT codes are billed for a service when one inclusive code is available.
 A Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) is a private health care insurer that has been awarded a geographic area or “jurisdiction” to regionally manage the policies and medical claims for Medicare Part A and Part B Fee-For-Service (FFS) beneficiaries.