Healthcare billing companies could benefit from EHR expansion

By Richard Pizzi
08:24 AM

The federal HITECH Act has created opportunities for third-party healthcare billing companies to expand their businesses – if they act quickly.

This was the message delivered to attendees Thursday at the 2009 national conference of the Healthcare Billing and Management Association by Steven Tolle, vice president of solutions management at Chicago-based EHR vendor Allscripts.

Tolle said federal stimulus money offered to physician practices to aid EHR adoption would prompt “10,000 EHR purchasing decisions between now and May 2010.”

He encouraged third-party billing companies to reflect on how an increase in EHR adoption among their physician clients would impact their business.

“Practices are going to be looking for ways to diversify their revenue streams and to develop a medical home strategy,” Tolle said. “(Third-party billing companies) have the trust of physicians, and you can leverage that to expand your business.”

Many healthcare billing companies serving physician practices have expressed concerns that federal stimulus money offered to doctors for healthcare information technology adoption might have a detrimental impact on business.

Many EHR vendors offer billing and revenue cycle management modules for their products, which could take business away from third-party billers.

Tolle said that won't necessarily happen.

“This can be an opportunity for you,” he said.

Tolle outlined three areas – in the wake of the federal HITECH Act – in which he thought third-party billers might have success. First, he noted the importance of Regional Extension Centers, or RECs, which will promote EHR best practices and provide unbiased information to physicians. RECs offer assistance to community physicians in EHR vendor selection, group purchasing, project management and local workforce support.

Third-party billers would have to establish non-profit divisions in order to get involved with RECs, but Tolle suggested that the strong relationship between billing companies and local physicians would make RECs options for the companies.

Tolle also indicated that the EHR market for small physician practices (the 1-9 physician space) offers an opportunity for billing companies to serve as resellers of ambulatory EHRs.

However, federal IT stimulus money is not just about EHRs, Tolle said, and more opportunities exist for business expansion.

“Physicians will have to deploy portals, kiosks (and) other tools to improve consumer access to medical records,” Tolle said. “There are other provider services that (billing companies) can get involved in to take advantage of stimulus money. But you need to act quickly because time is of the essence.”

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