How to buy EMS billing services
By Greg Friese
Many EMS agencies elect to outsource their patient billing to a billing service. To generate a bill, the service needs to have important data from the patient care report (PCR), like the patient’s demographics, address, payment information, medical problem, and the treatment provided. Thus, before searching for a billing service, ensure that your service personnel are writing complete PCRs.
To learn more about considerations for selecting a billing service provider, I spoke with Aaron Scharf, Manager of the EMS Department at Long Island College Hospital. Aaron's service scans paper PCRs and then transfers the scanned data to the billing service. These are our top considerations for selecting a billing service:
1. Determine if the billing service will be able to accept the data generated from your patient care reports. What type of software applications or data transfer bridges will be needed to extract and transfer data from your electronic storage to the billing service? For low patient volume services, ask if the billing service will accept written reports. When I volunteered for a service that ran less than 100 calls per year, we faxed our handwritten PCR to the billing company at the end of each call.
2. Examine the billing service's track record with other agencies. Ask to talk to representatives from other clients of the billing service. What do they like about the billing service? How do they describe the customer service? Is the billing service responsive to their questions and feature requests?
3. Know the time from when the billing company receives data until the bill is mailed to the customer. Aaron's expectation is that the billing service will generate and mail a bill "within 48 to 72 hours from receiving data."
4. Cost for providing the billing service. Determine and project the fee for the billing service. Will service be provided by a flat annual fee, a percentage of each bill, or a combination of an annual fee and percentage? Will your service be charged for the process of submitting uncollected bills?
5. Inquire about billing services overall collection rate. For Aaron’s service, a collection rate of "over 50 percent is a win." Achieving that goal requires a combination of field personnel efforts to get complete and accurate information, careful review of data before transfer to the billing service, and persistent and effective processes from the billing company.
6. Accessibility of software support and customer service. What is the availability of customer service and software support technicians? Do their work hours match the work hours of your staff that submit reports? Determine the availability and costs, if applicable, for customer service and software support for trouble shooting data transfer problems.
Aaron’s final and most important consideration is to select a billing service that "provides great and prompt customer service." He told me, "When I call, I don't want to wait on hold for 15 minutes and then get a non-answer. I expect a productive solution in the shortest amount of time."
Any other suggestions for purchasing billing services? Anything we missed in the list above? Leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback.