Monday, January 30, 2023

8 Key Steps of the Medical Billing Process

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The Medical Billing Process.

Medical billing is a large and complicated subject. However, the medical billing process involves of few simple steps.

In the medical billing process, the medical care provider properly documents, submits, and follow-ups on medical claims with the medical care insurance companies to take payment for the services given to the patients.

The medical billing process includes registration of patients, verifying financial responsibility, check-in and check-out of patients, preparing and transmitting claims, monitoring payer adjudication, preparing patient statements and following up on patient payments and settlement.

Medical Billing Process

The medical billing process consists of a sequence of steps done by medical billing specialists. Depending upon the circumstances, it will take a matter of days to finish or could stretch over many weeks or months. 

Even though the medical billing process used to be done using paper-based strategies and handwritten or typewriter-drafted documents, the emergence of multiple technologies within the medical care industry has transitioned it to an electronic method. This has saved time and money and minimized human and administrative errors.

Remember that medical billing has “front-of-house” and “back-of-house” responsibilities. We’ll see an in-detail description regarding every step in the medical billing process.

1. Register Patients – Very 1st step of the medical billing process

Patient registration is the opening one in the medical billing process. Once a patient calls to line up an appointment with a medical care provider, they or register for his or her doctor’s visit.

This has basic demographic details on a patient, with name, birth date, and the reason for a visit. Additionally, Insurance-related details were collected, including the name of the insurance supplier, Insurance plan, and the patient’s policy number, and verified by medical billers. These details line up a patient file that may be referred to throughout the medical billing process.

If the patient has seen the provider before, their detail is on file with the provider, and the patient only has to describe the case for their visit. If the patient is for their first visit, they should give personal and insurance details to the provider to confirm that they are granted to have services from the provider.

The demographic details and insurance details should be carefully noted. They must update if the patient frequently visits the medical practice because it forms the idea of a medical claim for which the healthcare providers will be remunerated.

Now, most practices use advanced medical billing and coding software wherever patient details are entered just once, and patients don’t have to go through the difficulty of giving details when they go to the hospital or clinic every time.

This step entails establishing financial responsibility for a patient visit and includes functions like check-in, insurance eligibility, and verification of the medical billing process.

2. Verifying financial responsibility

Financial accountability specifies who pays what for a specific doctor’s appointment. The biller can then identify whether the patient’s insurance plan covers services once they get the necessary information from the patient.

Patients should verify their insurance details and allowance in each appointment and the medical practice visit as an insurance plan. The medical care provider must ask and double-check because it can directly affect the claim process and resulting compensation.

The insurance status is checked, and only active insurance plans are processed. Specific insurance plans wouldn’t cover certain services or prescription medications. If some procedures or services are not coated, the patient is aware that they will be financially responsible for those costs.

Insurance plans or policy changes impact the patient’s authorization details and benefits.

3. Check-in and Check-out of patients

Patient check-in and check-out are comparatively straightforward procedures. If the patient arrives the first time, they (the provider) will be asked to fill up some forms; otherwise have to confirm the details the doctor has on file. The patient will also be needed to give some official identification, like a driver’s license or passport and a valid insurance card.

The provider’s workplace will also collect copayments when patients check in or out. Copayments are continuously collected for the service, but the provider can determine if the patient pays the copay before or after their visit.

After the patient check-out, the medical report of the patient is received by the medical coder. He abstracts and translates the detail in the report into correct, useable medical code. This report is called the “superbill.”, which additionally have demographic detail on the patient and the patient’s medical history.

All of the relevant details about the medical services rendered are included on the superbill. The superbill contains the name of the service provider, the doctor, the patient, the procedures carried out, the codes for the diagnosis and strategy, and any other relevant medical data. The creation of the claim requires the use of this information.

Once finished, the superbill is sent to the medical biller, usually through software.

4. Prepare Claims and verify compliance

The medical biller receives the superbill from the medical coder and enters it into the appropriate practice management or billing software or onto a paper claim form. Billers will also include the price of the procedures in the claim. The amount they anticipate the payer to pay, as specified in the payer’s contract with the patient and the provider, will be sent to the payer instead of the total cost.

After the completion, the medical biller is responsible for the standards and format of the medical claim. However, the biller does review the codes to confirm that the procedures coded are billable. Whether or not a procedure is billable depends on the patient’s insurance plan and the laws set out by the payer.

While claims may have different formats, they typically contain essential details. Each claim includes information on the patient, including their demographics and medical history, as well as the procedures carried out (in CPT or HCPCS codes). A diagnosis code (an ICD number) that confirms the medical necessity is connected with these operations. Additionally, the cost of various functions is provided. A National Provider Index (NPI) number is used in claims to identify the provider.

The value for these procedures is listed as well. Claims additionally have details about the provider, listed via a National Provider Index (NPI) number. Some claims also include a Place of Service code, which details the type of facility in which the medical services were performed.

Billers must also ensure that the bill complies with all applicable billing regulations. Typically, billers must adhere to rules set forth by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) (OIG). Due to space and efficiency concerns, we won’t go into great detail on OIG compliance criteria. However, they are straightforward but extensive.

5. Claims transmission

After the claim has been checked for accuracy and compliance, submission is the next step of the medical billing process.

The claim is ready when the patient information, health provider information, and service provided are added to the claim form and will be submitted to the insurance company for compensation.

All health entities covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) must file their claims electronically, with few exceptions. HIPAA protects the majority of payers, clearinghouses, and providers.

At present, because of the new technology, the claims are submitted electronically through a system named ‘Electronic Data Transfer (EDI).’

Billers may still use manual claims. However, this practice has many drawbacks. Manual claims have a lot of errors, minimum efficiency, and take much time to get from providers to payers. It can save time, effort, and money and significantly minimize administrative errors in the medical billing process by doing this process electronically.

Large quantity third-party payers, like Medicare or Medicaid, medical billers, can submit the claim straightly to the payer. However, a biller possibly bears a clearinghouse without submitting a claim directly to large payers.

A clearinghouse accepts and rearranges claims from medical billers and transmits them to payers. Claims have to be submitted very clearly for payers.

A clearinghouse is a third-party corporation or organization that accepts bills’ claims, reformats them, and then sends them to payers. Some payers have exact formats that claims must be submitted in. Clearinghouses lessen the burden on medical billers by gathering the data required to make a claim and then putting it in the proper form.

Consider it like this: A practice might submit ten claims to ten separate insurance companies, each with its own rules for filing claims. A biller can send the pertinent data to a clearinghouse, who will then be responsible for reformatting those ten separate claims rather than formatting each claim individually.

6. Monitor claim adjudication

After the claim reaches a payer, adjudication is the next medical billing process. In adjudication, a payer prepares a medical claim, checks the validity of the claim and if the claim is valid, the amount of money of the claim payer will repay to the provider. A claim can be accepted, denied, or rejected at this stage.

An accepted claim has been initiated valid by the payer. Accepted doesn’t essentially mean that the payer pays the full of bill. Preferably, they process the claim within the rules of their agreement with the patient. An accepted claim is paid according to the insurer’s agreements with the provider.

A rejected claim has some errors. If a claim is missing or miscoded important patient details, the claim will be rejected and returned to the biller. Then, the biller has to correct the claim and resubmit it.

A denied claim is one in that the payer rejects to do payment for the medical services supplied. This can happen when a provider bills for a procedure that is not included in a patient’s insurance coverage. This might have a procedure for a pre-existing condition (if the insurance plan does not cover such a procedure).

The payer will send a report to the provider, specifying how much of the claim they are ready to pay and the reason after the payer adjudication is completed. This report notes the covered procedures and the amount assigned for each procedure by the payer.

This type differs from the fees listed in the initial claim. The payer normally incorporates a contract with the provider that set down the fees and compensation rates for a variety of procedures. The report will describe the reasons for some processes that the payer won’t cover.

The biller confirms all procedures listed on the early claim are accounted for in the report by reviewing this report. And also check the payer’s report to match those of the initial claim. Finally, the biller will check to make sure the fees in the report are accurate concerning the contract between the payer and the provider.

If there are any mismatches, the biller/provider will enter into an appeal process with the payer. Worthwhile, appeal a claim is a process by which a provider tries to secure the correct compensation for their services.

This procedure is intricate and is governed by laws unique to payers and the states where providers are based. In reality, a claims appeal is the procedure a provider uses to get paid fairly for their services. Billers must make correct, “clean” claims because this procedure can be time-consuming and difficult.

7. Prepare patient statements

Creating a statement for patients who have an outstanding balance with the practice is the responsibility of a medical biller. After the claim has been processed, the patient is billed for any outstanding charges.

This statement includes a detailed list of the procedures and services provided, their costs, the amount paid by insurance, and the amount due from the patient. 

In some cases, a medical biller includes an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) with the statement. An EOB provides details about benefits, and what kind of coverage a patient receives under their plan. EOBs can be important in describing to patients why some procedures were covered and why others were not.

The medical biller usually initiates a set of processes, If a patient doesn’t pay his or her bill within the correct time period.

Once all the checks are done, and the insurance company decides to pay the claim, a paper check or electronic fund transfer is created.

8. Follow up on patient payments and settlement

The final and most crucial part of the medical billing process is guaranteeing those bills get, well, paid. Medical Billers are in charge of mailing out billings timely, correcting medical bills, and following up with complex patients’ bills. After paying the bill, that detail is stored in the patient’s file.

It’s the biller’s responsibility to confirm that the provider is properly reimbursed for their services when the patient is irresponsible in their payment or if they don’t pay the full payment. This may involve contacting the patient directly, sending follow-up bills, and if it isn’t working would, hire a collection agency.

Every provider has its terms of bill payment, notifications, and collections. Medical billers refer to the provider’s terms before taking part in activities.

Hospitals and medical care facilities no longer have to chase insurance agencies for settlement of payments.

Electronic medical records and their impact on the medical billing process

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) are the electronic version of patient medical reports or charts that includes information like the patient’s treatment, diagnosis, procedure, lab reports, etc. In short, it details what happened during the patient’s visit to a Medical Practice or Hospital. EMR helps physicians track patient accounts and follow-ups accordingly, identify patients due for check-ups and schedule them for screening or regular check-ups.

Benefits of Implementing EMR in Your Medical Practice

Upgrading to an EMR from paper records can be the best decision for a Medical Practice resulting in various benefits such as:

  • Safe and secure maintenance of patient documents electronically
  • Reduces the hassle of maintaining physical copies of Paper records
  • Availability of information at fingertips for reference at any time
  • Assists in Improvised diagnosis and quality treatment
  • Better security and privacy of Protected Health Information (PHI)
  • Easy tracking and quick follow-ups, and decision making
  • Eradicates miss and errors compared to paper Medical Records
  • Helps achieve “Meaningful Use Compliance” of standard
  • Enhanced support, such as reminders on upcoming appointments for screening
  • Low on cost in comparison with Paper Medical Reports

Strategies for improving the accuracy and efficiency of the medical billing process

Updating and maintaining patient records

How can you expect to handle claims invoicing accurately if you need complete information on all of your patients? You must provide personnel instructions to double-check each patient’s insurance details and demographics. Why is this required? One possibility is that your patient has changed employment and is now covered by a different insurance company or a new spouse.

A patient might upgrade to the most expensive plan with lower deductibles or a less expensive one with considerably higher out-of-pocket payments if the nature of insurance has changed.

Make it a point to explain the procedure as you update your patients’ information, so they are not taken aback by an unexpectedly more fantastic price. Check simple details like the policy number and subscriber information twice. These specifics must correspond with the data of third-party payers.

Automate Routine Billing Procedures

Your firm will suffer if you make employees perform jobs that can be completed more quickly and easily by automated technologies. Employees who might otherwise be free to concentrate on more patient-centric, individualized service become frustrated, and their morale suffers as a result. Determine which billing duties are repetitive and mindless.

Among the tasks are individual claims filing, creating and sending payment reminders, and choosing the appropriate medical billing codes.

Practice Success

Every insurance provider with which your business does business will have a different set of regulations. An insurance company may request that you submit chart notes with claims for new patients to establish a primary care relationship. On the other hand, some insurers will need chart notes to support follow-up care and unconventional treatment methods.

Update and broaden your employee training programs to include elements that let billing departments easily access patient data and identify the applicable filing requirements. This makes it possible to guarantee that each carrier has the knowledge required to hasten claims processing as soon as you submit them.

Track Rejects

Whether a practice handles claims internally or through an external vendor for billing and coding, it is evident that having a system of checks and balances will increase first-pass rates.

Adopt the mentality that every rejection is a learning opportunity to enhance the process rather than criticizing staff members for errors. For instance, higher-than-expected denial rates could indicate that your team needs further training or that your existing workflow requires a different scrubbing method.

Typical justifications for denials include:

  • The credentials of physicians are insufficient
  • You don’t have enough supporting evidence.
  • Your group employs codes for goods or services that carriers do not provide coverage for

You might discover simple actions your practice can take to improve efficiency if you track denial codes. For instance, emailing daily billing codes and chart notes to the billing department could save time and increase accuracy. Similarly, if claims for services that are thought to be “non-covered” are frequently being returned, it may be time to revisit your coding procedures and the process for verifying coverage.

The role of medical billing software in the medical billing process

Medical billing software automates the entire revenue cycle of a healthcare business. The software processes the electronic and physical billing data, so you know exactly how much the patient owes you and the amount their insurance policy covers.

FAQ on Medical Billing Process

What steps are taken in the medical billing process?

The hospital sends our billing team medical claims accompanied by patient medical records, charge sheets, insurance verification information, a copy of the insurance card, and any other patient information through courier or scanned documents.

How does a billing cycle of 28 days operate?

The typical billing cycle for a credit card is 28 to 31 days. Your statement balance is calculated after each billing cycle by adding the transactions to your previous amount if there was one. Your bill will be due in the following few weeks, and a new billing cycle will begin.

What is the length of a billing cycle?

The time between the previous and current billing dates for any sale of products or provision of services is known as the billing cycle. Billing cycles might span between 20 and 45 days, depending on the lender or service provider. 

How many billing cycles are there?

The term “two-cycle billing,” also called “double-cycle billing,” describes a method used by credit card companies to determine how much a cardholder owes based on the average daily balance over the previous two months.

What software do medical billing companies use?

Kareo is a cloud-based platform used by billing companies for their practices. Nearly 1,600 medical billing companies trust Kareo. Kareo ranked #1 united billing and EHR solution.

What does billing company mean?

A billing company means any related or independent company that’s hired by a medical care provider or health care facility to organize the payment of bills with health insurers and to make and collect payment from members of the health care providers.

What is the process of billing?

The billing process clarifies who needs to be billed in line with customer type. It decides for which billing products they will be billed and defines a way to evaluate the charges.                                  

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I am a medical biller, a blogger and have 20 years of experience in medical billing, medical billing management, and medical assistant. My background includes positions as a clinical medical assistant, medical records technician, medical office manager, biller, and coder. I am certified by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) as a Certified Professional Coder (CPC) and by the Practice Management Institute (PMI) as a Certified Medical Office Manager (CMOM). As an office manager/biller/coder, I was a member of the Michigan Medical Group Managers, Michigan Medical Billers Association. I also served as a committee member of the Michigan Osteopathic Association of Practice Managers Education Committee.

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