How to Optimize Your Revenue Cycle for the New Year
The new year is coming in hot, and with it comes new strategies for effective revenue cycle management. If you’re a dental professional, you no doubt understand the challenges of dental billing. The process is difficult for understaffed practices that are overwhelmed by crushing patient loads and burdened by overdue accounts receivable and low reimbursements.
Dental practices have been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with lower patient counts, office closures, and staffing shortages. The health of your practice depends on a reliable and efficient revenue stream, with optimized collection procedures ensuring optimal reimbursements and patient satisfaction. After all, you can’t provide good patient care when your practice isn’t collecting like it should be.
But there’s good news in all of this.
The unique demands of the COVID-19 pandemic have inspired dental professionals to get creative and leverage new technologies that change how providers interact with patients and how practices manage their revenue cycle. But not all of these changes are bad. In fact, many of them have created a greater sense of ease and efficiency for providers and practice managers that we can take into the post-pandemic future. Has your practice capitalized on these trends?
Looking ahead at 2022, let’s review what we’ve learned from the past year and consider some tips to refresh your practice for the new year. Along the way, you’ll find some benefits you don’t want to miss out on.
1) Get ready for new 2022 Dental ADA Codes
The dental world has long awaited the kind of reimbursements that medical practices receive from medical cross coding practices. Well, that wait is over. With the right knowledge and software, dental medical cross coding is becoming easier than ever before, with significant financial benefits to your practice.
Coding can make or break your revenue cycle. These universal coding categories explain both the “what” and “why” for any medical procedure. If done correctly, these numeric codes replace the need for a narrative—which makes your biller’s life a lot easier! (They even have a code for injuries sustained during tackle football…who knew?!)
BUT there’s a catch. Your coding must be accurate and painstakingly up-to-date if it’s going to be effective. Accurate coding ensures that you are being appropriately reimbursed for the care you delivered—but staying on top of coding updates can be a challenge for overwhelmed office staff.
The most recent 2022 updates to CDT coding include 16 new codes, 14 revisions, and 6 deletions, all of which can critically impact your cashflow if not coded properly. Fortunately, the ADA has published a new CDT 2022 Coding Companion, available for pre-order here.
Included with the manual is a handy-dandy app with all updated CDT Codes. For coders, this is super convenient to have at your digital fingertips. For book lovers, you can pore through this guide at your convenience and have it easily on-hand for reference.
2) Update your 2022 fee schedules
Your insurance fee schedules determine the financial metrics of your practice and are a critical part of maintaining optimal cashflow. You want to stay on top of any changes so that your practice is operating at peak efficiency and your collections don’t suffer.
How do you do that?
- Make sure your coding is accurate. As discussed above, improper coding can lead to claim denials and low reimbursements.
- Communicate with patients. Be transparent with patients about fee schedule updates so that they are receiving the same information from both you and their carrier.
- Review your contracts with carriers. Carriers have deadlines for when you can negotiate fee schedules, but they differ depending upon your carrier. The average PPO W/O range is around 25%, so if you are writing off more than this for a certain carrier, you may rethink being a contracted provider.
- Automate or outsource your billing procedures. To avoid time-consuming and revenue-depleting errors, use templated workflows or an outsourced team of coding experts to handle the process for you.
It’s important to note that not all insurances update their fee schedules every year. Most update them every one or two years. These fee schedules are available in December for the majority of carriers, however some are not available until well into January.
3) Refresh your practice management software
With the new year it’s time to dust off your old practice management software and update your legacy systems. Consider doing a mass reset for your patients’ maximums and deductibles with calendar year plans. Many automated software programs can do a “mass update” for you and reset all of your patients’ settings.
Closing out financials for the end of the year is important as well, but the process can be tricky. Many software programs offer free trainings on best practices for closing out financials, taking place in November and December.
4) Take advantage of tele-dentistry
To broaden the reach of dental care, tele-dentistry has advanced and evolved in the last year to better serve patients. The pandemic, along with closures, made dentists think more about providing care if in-person visits were not a possibility.
While this has proven effective during the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term benefit to patients will be tremendous. Rural and underserved areas can now be accessed and treated from afar. While seeing patients in person is very important, when necessary, tele-dentistry can increase patient access and lower healthcare costs while easing patient flow for dental staff.
Make sure you are employing the correct codes for tele-dental sessions, in order to be appropriately reimbursed.
5) Outsource your revenue cycle management
Maybe you know a dental or medical practice that’s outsourcing their billing. Maybe you’re one of them. It’s undeniable that outsourced revenue cycle management is a growing dental trend—and here to stay. Here’s why:
- We’re living in the worst economic crisis of modern times. Providers are looking to cut costs in order to keep their practice afloat. By outsourcing your billing, you are only paying a percentage of the total collections earned vs paying the hourly rate of an in-house employee plus the additional tax burden—with the national average at 30%. Medical has been outsourcing for quite some time, to great success—dental has only been doing it for the past 8-10 years. It’s time to catch up.
- Hiring in the dental field is nearly impossible. Everybody in the dental industry knows that practices are plagued by staffing issues. Candidates are not showing up to interviews, existing team members are not returning to work after the initial layoffs, and dentists are interviewing for hygienist positions without success. Providers just don’t have the office power to effectively manage the billing cycle—which can lead to outstanding AR, rejected claims, and disgruntled patients.
- The direction of the industry is outsourcing. The revenue cycle outsourcing market is expected to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 11.9% through 2023—rising from 11.7 billion in 2017 to a whopping 23 billion by the end of the period.
- Intensified patient care by allowing front office staff to focus on patient experience rather than billing. Lucky offices have great office managers—we want those people to concentrate on growing their practice and serving patients, rather than trying to manage the revenue that comes in from the backend.
- Avoid a revenue rollercoaster. Stellar in-house billers are hard to find, and even the best can create gaps in billing when they go out sick, take vacation, or worse, find alternate employment. A dedicated RCM partner drives high performance with consistent results.
- Leveraging technology for patient experience. You can make things easier for patients by opting for Mobile, Online, and Contactless payments, or keeping a card on file. Utilize Digital Registration Forms that integrate with your website to streamline the registration process, and capitalize on POC payments and Text to Pay with customizable messages and sending TX plans via technology to improve and expedite the patient experience.
All of this information can be a whirlwind for the already overwhelmed practice manager. That’s why we’re here to help.
Cosentus specializes in dental billing, and we’re happy to get you started on outsourcing your revenue cycle. The first step is finding out how much you could be saving with our services.
Check out our Collections Calculator to find out now!
For more details, get in touch with our team.