All physicians are specialists, focusing their time and energy on providing the best possible care to their patients. Although most are not experts in business management, they are still responsible for implementing solutions that improves the quality of healthcare and service provided. The problem is that many physicians end up spending too much of their time and resources taking care of the business portion of their practice, taking away from what they do best; caring for patients. Due to the increased competition in the healthcare industry, and the growing number of people entering their senior years, the use of virtual medical offices by physicians is on the rise.
A large portion of physicians that have switched over to virtual office services have found that improving the business component of their practice has also led to better patient care. Many of those still considering this option are wondering not just how it can benefit their practice, but how it can benefit those that are truly their top priority: the patients. Let’s take a look at how both physicians and patients can benefit from cost-effective and convenient virtual medical assistant services.
Improved cash flow and more accurate billing benefit everyone
Every doctors office relies on the cash flow from previous patient visits to keep their practice operating efficiently and effectively for their current patients. Every insurance claim that isn’t paid and every bill that fails to go out to patients results in a decrease in cash flow. Although many practices believe that handling their own billing is the best way to keep more cash on-hand, more doctors are realizing that this is not the case and have begun to outsource their medical billing tasks.
There are many reasons that in-house billing is not the most practical solution for a medical practice. Changes to Medicare and Medicaid, along with different types of insurance policies offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace have led to even more complex coding requirements. One wrong code can result in a valid claim being denied. Time limits imposed on making claims also results in many claims failing to get paid.
Doctors offices may have a single employee handling all of their billing needs. Small practices sometimes split the responsibility among different employees that are not specifically trained for billing. Either method of in-house billing requires ongoing training and ends up taking time away from the employee(s) that could be better spent providing care to patients. It also means that there is a much greater risk of mistakes that could result in a big reduction in cash flow.
Outsourcing this task to your virtual medical assistants means the end of expensive oversights and mistakes. These flexible assistants eliminate both paperwork and human error – which results in a faster rate of fund transfer. The end result? A more efficient billing service for physicians and a more accurate billing system for patients.
More efficient billing is a win-win for physicians and patients alike. The physician no longer has to worry about keeping personnel up-to-date on new requirements or running into problems when their only trained employee is suddenly absent. Instead of incurring the cost of a full-time employee to handle the billing, the virtual office gives the physician access to an entire team of experts who are billing specialists, at a fixed rate that doesn’t include any additional benefits.
In today’s complex healthcare environment, billing is so much more than filling out insurance claims and waiting to get paid. Preapproval, or insurance verification, may be required for certain services or procedures. Once a claim is made, there are follow-ups that need to be made in a timely manner to provide any missing information or make any necessary updates to ensure payment is received. Bills must be sent to patients who do not have insurance as well as to those who have insurance coverage that pays only part of the total cost for the services they received. There are potential errors that could prove costly to the patient and the physician at every step of the process.
When bills and claims are not paid on time, the medical practice may never receive full payment for the services rendered. Cash flow is reduced and the quality of services may be impacted. In some practices, staff hours may be reduced to cut costs. Others may limit the hours that they see patients. All of these problems are virtually eliminated with a virtual medical office.
The end of costly equipment to buy and maintain is a win for everyone
One of the reasons physicians are turning to virtual offices is because it means the end of buying costly equipment and software. As technology continues to grow, the most advanced systems of today will quickly become outdated and need to be replaced by the latest and usually even more expensive equipment and software. Even with upgrades to existing equipment and software, training for the staff will be a necessity.
The virtual medical office eliminates maintenance costs and removes the worries that servers will crash. All necessary backups are done automatically so that data is safe and secure. With a lower need for service and support, practices can invest this money into other equipment that will help provide superior service and care for their patients. They leave the understanding of office equipment and software to the experts who already know what they need to know and let the office staff focus on better diagnostics and more effective medical procedures.
Dedicated communication lines are a thing of the past
When a doctor decides to use virtual medical services, they can eliminate all dedicated communication lines with the exception of high-speed internet. Not only does this cut down on costs for the practice, but it assures that patients can get access to the services they need even through power outages or other local issues. The same technology that has made it easy to communicate with friends and family from virtually any location makes it just as easy for patients to talk with their doctors and medical personnel whenever and wherever they need to.
Your patients have more communication options
Finding time to call the doctor’s office can be challenging for many patients, especially those that work a busy 9 – 5 job. When people are at work, sometimes it is easier for them to text the doctors office to schedule an appointment. These on-the-go folks will benefit greatly from the fact that their physician uses virtual medical office services like online chat or SMS text messaging. A virtual medical assistant helps expand a patient’s options to be in touch with your office and makes everything more convenient for your patients. Convenience is something your patients will definitely appreciate.
When workflow is improved patients can expect lower wait times
If you ask a room full of patients what their biggest disappointment is when visiting ther doctor’s office, many will reply that they dread waiting for 20 minutes or longer in the waiting room. For many patients, a trip to the doctor’s office means taking time off from work and finding transportation to get to and from the doctor’s office. Their time is valuable and they can’t afford to spend it sitting in a waiting room.
One of the main reasons that patients are often kept waiting is the need to fill out a seemingly endless pile of paperwork. Patients often complain that they must provide the same information repeatedly, even though their circumstances have not changed since their last visit. When seeing a specialist for the first time, they must start with the basic information that is already on file with their primary care physician. If your doctor used a virtual medical service, the need for this redundant paperwork is eliminated and all of your important medical history is provided to the physician. This also means that your staff can skip the time-consuming busywork and get straight to the services that actually improve the patient’s experience.
Physicians can rest easy that their patient’s private information is secure
Cyber security has become an increasingly common concern for businesses and individuals alike. Thanks to the publicized incidents in which a number of celebrities had their personal information and photos stolen, the public is more aware of the threats to security that exist online. Like many other types of businesses, medical practices collect information from their patients and store it on their computer programs. Patients want to know that they can communicate with their doctors and provide contact information and financial account information to them without worrying that it can be intercepted.
The reality is that physicians are not in the business of cyber security. They can purchase the latest updates to try and keep their servers secure, but those who want access to this information are constantly changing their tactics. When a doctors office chooses to use virtual medical office services, they are turning to experts who stay on top of all the latest in cyber security. Updates are made seamlessly and automatically so that patients’ vital information is kept safe even when technology continues to change the way would-be cyber hackers go about infiltrating existing barriers.
Patients get instant access to bill reminders and follow-ups
Since all billing is tracked automatically when you switch to a virtual office, invoices, invoice reminders, and follow-ups are sent without you having to do a thing. This saves time, energy, and space for your employees, and assures that patients who forget to pay are given the reminders they need to get the check in the mail.
Many routine operating expenses are a thing of the past
Moving to a virtual medical office is the beginning of the end when it comes to routine operating expenses. Your office can look forward to:
There’s no end to the number of ways in which everyone benefits from comprehensive virtual office assistant services. Patients can expect their personal information to remain secure, will enjoy easy access to support staff, and can look forward to more personal attention when they’re with their physicians. Physicians can expect reduced overhead costs, exceptional services, and more time to focus on their patient’s care.