Friday, July 27, 2012
The “e” in e-mail, e-claims and e-service stands for “electronic” but in actual practice it means a lot more; it means digital, automatic and connected to the Internet. One of the many wonders of digital information is that once something is digitized it can be easily and cheaply transmitted beyond our office and then analyzed using remote computer applications.
I find that the majority of dentists under utilize e-services. I believe this is because for the most part they are not aware of e-services and how easy and cost effective they are to use. Once you set up the service it runs automatically by itself with no need for additional work from the user.
We gather digital information as a byproduct of doing business with a computer. For example; the patient’s name, their insurance carrier, the treatment they need, their next appointment and how much they owe the office. Once this is gathered in a digital format it is accessible to a computer and can be used automatically with no additional involvement of a human being. Just to be clear the data is accessible to any computer we want to allow access anywhere in the world it is not confined to our local network.
Since we can send the digital data to any computer we do not need to buy and load the software application we want to use on our system. We use the software on the remote system. We use the software as a service or SAS another term for e-service.
A good example of e-services are the communication tools available form Sesame Communications and others. For example it is both a courtesy and insurance against no-shows to confirm appointments. You can pay a human to sit on the phone for hours dialing and leaving messages or you can use an e-service.
Your office computer has the digital information; that is a patient name, and appointment date. Sesame extracts the pertinent information from your local computer and then sends a reminder as an e-mail, text or voice message. The patient can respond to confirm and the system will update the office.
The next level of e-service patient communication from Sesame is patient interaction with the practice web site. This includes the ability of the patient to login and check their balance, make a payment, check and confirm their next appointment, make a new appointment or fill out an updated health history. Again all of these things can be done without a human involved because the computer already has the information needed stored as a byproduct of doing business. Plus once the system gathers new information like an updated medical history it can send it to the office and store it in the appropriate files.
No human being answering the phone, no human being typing in payments, no human being flipping through a chart.
E-services can also be used for business to business communications. A good example is a service to check insurance eligibility which is offered by Dentrix and others. In the recent past offices checking on a patient’s insurance coverage and eligibility started with a phone call to an 800 number then endured twenty to thirty minutes on hold before a human from the insurance company answered.
Again your office computer has the digital information. That is a patient name, an appointment date, a scheduled treatment, the insurer and plan number. The e-service extracts the information from your local computer, contacts the appropriate insurance computer through the Internet and extracts the pertinent data from the insurance computer. That is, is this patient covered for this treatment and what is the coverage?
There are many other e-services available to dentists including; e-claims (with e-attachments), e-billing, e-calls (in place of recalls), e-backup, e-forms and other services that gather satisfaction surveys or re-activate non-compliant patients. The newest e-services not only extract and gather digital data they analyze it using artificial intelligence type systems to find information hidden in the data.
For example, Action Run provides an e-service that contacts and re-activates non-responsive patients. This is not a new idea. Early attempts to use digital technology to re-activate patients simply automated the tasks in the office. Between patients a staff member was assigned to look up patients who have not been seen in a couple of years and then send them a notice. Action Run uses clinical analysis to determine why a patient should return and customizes a message just for that patient. It does all the work for you and it does it in a better and more sophisticated way than a staff person working between patients with better results at a lower cost.
You need to do two things to make this possible. Gather digital data (which you are already doing) and sign up for the service. The future is coming and it will be amazing!