Increase Practice ROI in a Time of Climbing Healthcare Costs and Challenges
With the cost of healthcare rising, and facilities facing staffing shortages, it’s no wonder that many clinics, practices, and hospitals are concerned with revenue retention. In an age where technology is meant to take the burden off of administrative tasks, it can be frustrating to find that not all healthcare IT does what it promises. Bad Tech aggravates already frustrating issues. In this blog we’ll break down top challenges your practice might be facing, 5 ways EHRs can improve practice ROI, and a compelling case study into how Azalea’s EHR solution generated large, positive returns for its RHC clients in just months.
Top 5 Challenges Practices Are Facing Right Now
1. Preventing Burnout
Did you know that, “60 to 75 percent of clinicians report symptoms of depression, exhaustion, and even sleep disorders. Further statistics prove that worker burnout costs this country a lot of money each year—a staggering $4.6 billion” (US News). That’s a huge strain on employees and on the practice. With doctors, nurses, and staff in short supply, especially in more rural areas, care providers are over-spent, overworked, and overwhelmed. Lacking staff alone is a major catalyst for other pain areas, but it never helps when the technology they are using makes their lives more difficult. ‘Burnout’ can be caused by a multitude of factors, confusing software being one of them. Minutes lost to charting, multiple screens, and clicks, can eat away into time with patients, or even into a provider’s life outside of work- and who wants that?
2. Staffing Shortages
Though addressed in the point above, staffing shortages deserves its own section. Currently, many places are experiencing a shortage of healthcare workers, leading to current staff working longer hours. This paired with an aging population with more complex health needs leads to unhappy and mentally exhausted staff. Additionally, practices are turning to traveling nurses, though helpful, are expensive (especially for rural clinics and hospitals).
3. Healthcare Cybersecurity
The average cost of a typical healthcare breach rose to an average of $9.4 million last year. With over 45 million people affected by healthcare cyberattacks in 2021, cybersecurity is a top priority for decision-makers and providers alike. The need for secure, compliant, and up-to-date systems is so important when it comes to fighting off cyber threats and attacks.
4. Regulatory Changes
Regulatory changes are required and necessary but can cause confusion within the practice and with the general public and drive up the cost of healthcare services. The intention of building a solid and focused regulatory environment is to facilitate a higher quality of care, but oftentimes it feels that by focusing intently on complex regulatory changes, that very quality of care suffers. For rural practices, regulatory changes can be challenging for two reasons, either they are excluded from the regulations ( which leaves RHCs out of regulatory discussions) and typically, Rural Health Clinics do not have the resources to employ staff who are well versed in policy updates. It’s a major lift for RHCs to stay on top of regulatory issues when they don’t have the bandwidth to do so.
5. Rising Practice Costs
The rising cost of healthcare is not new, nor an unexpected trend. In 2020, surprisingly, most patients and providers even saw a dip in costs due to the decrease in non-emergency medical services, chronic care services, and preventative care. As we ramped back up into 2021, many experienced a rubber band effect in visits, and the cost of those services returned to ‘normal’ (according to many studies, the visit rate for preventative and non-emergency care is still lower than the years prior). However, the projections for the cost of care are steadily surpassing pre-pandemic notions, as inflation continues to rise. With costs climbing, how can practices and clinics remain afloat? How can they retain revenue?
Driving ROI: The Business Case for a Cloud-Based EHR System for Rural Health Clinics
Hobson & Company, a leading research firm focused on return on investment (ROI) studies, worked with Azalea Health, a leading provider of cloud-based EHR and RCM services, to explore these challenges and learn how RHCs are responding. Hobson & Company conducted independent research consisting of in-depth interviews with Azalea Health customers and found that Azalea Health’s Ambulatory EHR and RCM addressed specific customer challenges to deliver a quick and compelling ROI.
Top 4 ways cloud-based EHRs can improve practice ROI
1. Increased Patient Safety and Satisfaction
A big hurdle physicians face is utilizing tech to increase the quality of care, and not letting EHRs distract from it. Thankfully, on the market, many are seeing more agile EHR solutions that strive to be invisible in the patient care journey. EHRs enable physicians to improve patient communication with decreased turn-around times, easy access for patients to see their health information, decreased wait times, and improved appointment scheduling. Integrated telehealth has also become a quickly adopted platform for enhanced care, especially in areas where patients are miles from their nearest primary care.
2. Light IT Costs and Maintenance
With cloud-based care, there’s far less need for in-house/on-premise server maintenance. Initial capital investments needed to implement servers are eliminated, along with IT maintenance staff. Generally, data migrations, maintenance, and software upgrades and updates, are all less costly to clinics with a cloud-based EHR or practice management system.
3. Increased Staff Efficiency
An efficient EHR system should reduce time spent staring at screens and increase face time with patients. Physicians hear this a lot when looking into EHR systems, but how would they really gain time back in their day? An intuitive, provider-focused platform can reduce: time spent charting, registering patients, managing billing, long days in A/R, and large numbers of denials.
With staffing shortages, a top concern in the country, seconds spent clicking or hours charting at home can have a significant impact on a practice’s entire staff. Clinics that are short-handed cannot afford to be held back by outdated systems that require more time on the platform. Time lost equals fewer patients, reduced quality of care, and ultimately less revenue.
4. More Secure in the Cloud
Cyber attacks can be extremely costly, so investing in secure software is a top priority for clinics. Cloud-based EHRs mitigate the risk of financial ruin by a few ways:
- In on-premise servers, you’re limited in how much storage you have and where you can store it. In the cloud, data can be partitioned and separated into different environments, reducing the likelihood of a data breach.
- Everything is monitored by a team whose only job is to make sure that your data is untouchable. These teams have in-depth knowledge of security compliance and regulations, which takes the burden off of your team to keep up with. EHR software add-ons and certificates like Veracode provide an even further level of security.
- With EHRs that have AWS (Amazon Web Services), information is highly encrypted and massive investments have been made into authentication mechanisms.
Hobson & Company ROI Study: The Business Case for a Cloud-Based EHR System for Rural Health Clinics
Hobson & Company, a leading research firm focused on return on investment (ROI) studies, worked with Azalea Health, a leading provider of cloud-based EHR and RCM services, to explore these challenges and learn how RHCs are responding. Hobson & Company conducted independent research consisting of in-depth interviews with Azalea customers and found that Azalea’s Ambulatory EHR and RCM addressed specific customer challenges to deliver a quick and compelling ROI.
Based on this analysis, a Rural Health Clinic with 8 providers and spending $170,000 per year on Hospital EHR and RCM would pay back the cost of the Azalea investment in 5.1 months and generate an ROI of 117% over three years. The goal of this research study is to highlight examples of validated use cases where the impact of Azalea’s Ambulatory EHR and RCM (revenue cycle management) solutions are not only strategic but measurable, based on key metrics confirmed by current users.
Rural Health Clinic Challenges
Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) provide a critical safety net for rural communities and deciding which Electronic Health Record system to use can have serious consequences. EHRs have undergone significant changes since they were first introduced but many remain clunky and difficult to use. Often it takes many clicks to get to the appropriate screen whether for patient registration, charting, or even billing which can directly impact patient care and clinic revenue. For those RHCs with an on-premise EHR infrastructure, the management of the system can be extremely complicated, taking up valuable internal resources’ time. Every time the infrastructure needs to be replaced or upgraded, it is costly and time-consuming to the facility
Customers interviewed for this study noted that there are consistent operational and revenue challenges in working with their current, antiquated EHRs. Below is a list of some of the most universal concerns.
Difficult patient management processes
A well-known fact of using an EHR is that many systems are overly complicated and require multiple clicks to get to the required information. Patient registration can leave both the patient and the registration manager frustrated while patient charting can take up valuable provider time. Additionally, submitting patient claims and researching denials often requires multiple staff, further straining already stretched budgets.
Challenging revenue recognition
Customers were quick to point out that the number of denials increases with more complicated EHR systems that do not understand the nuances of Rural Health Clinic filings. Without insight into the performance and effectiveness of collections, it is difficult to track accounts receivables and denials.
How Azalea Health’s EHR Improved Practice ROI by addressing these challenges
Reduce time on patient registration
Rural Health Clinics confirmed the benefit of using Azalea Ambulatory EHR is that it is customizable and transparent across providers and locations. It performs integrated eligibility checks, allows for drag-and-drop functionality for scheduling, and captures patient financial information and stores it on file for future use.
Reduce time spent charting
Customers noted that Azalea’s Ambulatory EHR, cloud-based solution displays all chart information on one screen: one-click to perform split claim billing; drag and drop care level transitions; capture billing codes/claims; send prescriptions to pharmacy; order labs and schedule follow-ups. The customized templates allow for collaborative charting, single-page SOAP notes, and creation of favorite chart notes.
“Providers can log in from anywhere. They don’t have any software to download and can dictate their chart notes via phone or on their computer.”
- Director, Business Office
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Scheduling, charting, and billing has never been easier with Azalea’s award winning EHR platform. In your personalized demo, meet our experienced team and let us walk you through our simple drag and drop features, intuitive charting, integrated telehealth, and billing so you can eliminate navigating to multiple screens, experience fewer clicks, and get time back in your day.
Reduce time managing billing
Customer interviews confirmed Azalea Ambulatory EHR Practice Management billing system manages all billing activities including verifying eligibility, taking payments, and modifying payments. Claims are generated automatically from the encounter, and it connects directly to the clearinghouses.
There were additional benefits if they were using Azalea RCM’s service-based solution to handle all aspects of submitting claims and processing payments. RCM is staffed by US-based experts in 30 specialties who have knowledge on the latest regulatory developments, coding requirements, reimbursement rules, and standards.
Save time/cost of managing EHR infrastructure
Customers noted that switching to Azalea’s Ambulatory EHR cloud-based, zero-server solutions requires no installation or maintenance and interfaces directly with labs and other health systems.
“A big benefit is that we no longer have any onsite hardware. We used to have network servers that would need to be maintained. Now there is no data storage, backups, or upgrades.”
- Practice Manager
Reduce days in A/R
Customers noted that the Azalea Ambulatory EHR Practice Management solution collects accurate payments at the time of service with integrated Patient Responsibility Estimator and merchant services. Azalea Analytics reports on the performance and effectiveness of the collections department with matched A/R reports and trending metrics that can be filtered to detailed patient listings.
If using Azalea RCM, the benefits were even greater. Azalea RCM’s dedicated team of US-based expert rural health billers file insurance claims within a few days of encounter. They check patient eligibility and ensure that the practices are following industry norms including electronic claims and clearinghouse services.
Reduce number of denials
Customers confirmed using Azalea Ambulatory EHR Azalea Insights for the clinics enables a practice to make sure a claim was paid and paid correctly. The analytic dashboard creates alerts on the source of denials while continuously monitoring denials and resolution rates to ensure that the trends are heading in the right direction.
If using Azalea RCM, customers noted that the US-based certified experts in rural health billing successfully resolved over 98% of claims submitted on the first submission and followed up with any denials.
Summary of ROI
A total of 6 distinct Ambulatory EHRs with RCM benefits were identified during the customer interviews for this research paper. Below is a sample of the top 4 benefits and their potential 5-year value to a Rural Health Clinic with 8 providers and 1,600 patients per year spending
~$174,000 per year.