Trends that are re-shaping payment integrity strategies

Evolving payment models and new technologies are supporting health plans’ efforts to implement more proactive, data-driven payment integrity solutions. Diane Akrami, Senior Director, Audit Operations, discusses what’s in store for the future of payment integrity and how the company is helping clients make the transition from retrospective to prospective programs.

During the last decade, a number of emerging trends have impacted health plans’ ability to reduce their exposure and increase payment accuracy. Value-based contracting, for example, has left many payers struggling to figure out how to transition to the performance-based payment methodologies that center on cost efficiency, quality, and delivery standards. The changes around CMS’ reimbursement models for home health and skilled nursing can pose some challenges as provider and payers adapt to those changes and create new PI audit opportunities. Payment integrity programs can provide needed support in adapting to claims processing changes like these.

At the same time, providers themselves are evolving and making changes to their billing processes based on these new models. In order to mitigate potential payment errors, health plans are moving from a retrospective process of identification and recovery to a more cost-effective prospective approach. Through clinical audits focused on the provider type, place of service, and their reimbursement models, plans can verify that services billed were performed, ensure proper payments, and avoid the costs of recovery. Payment integrity has a role to play here. Focused payment integrity programs that take a holistic approach to claims auditing enable health plans to shift from cost recovery to prevention and cost avoidance, thereby increasing claim payment accuracy.

Helping transform payment integrity approaches

As industry needs change, Discovery has been bolstering our payment integrity capabilities with experienced talent, technology platforms, and analytical tools. Our highly-experienced Clinical Audits team builds and deliver solutions for urgent care, home health, skilled nursing facilities, high-cost drugs, and other standard and client-specific audits, Our client-centric approach to payment integrity will allow us to continue expanding these types of services to address health plans’ needs as they arise—specialty audits for provider telehealth claims, for example—to support our clients’ cost avoidance and recovery operations.

Using data to evolve payment integrity approach

The healthcare industry is accelerating its adoption of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning to add efficiency and cut costs across operations, including in the payment integrity space. Discovery leverages analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to audit millions of claims every month and find the “needle in the haystack” claims that yield the highest savings for health plans. We are also using analytics to identify patterns in client data that are specific to that provider. We can use that information to educate clients on how to address specific trends to improve their billing processes. We can also help them identify opportunities to change behaviors, so they are able to pivot to a proactive payment process.

Health plans are looking for a true partner who can help them support and enhance their payment integrity efforts so they can better control costs associated with incorrect billing and overpaid claims and improve administrative and medical loss ratios. With years of experience supporting both payment integrity and managed care, Discovery’s connected payment integrity approach—combined with our dedication to partnership, responsiveness, and relationships—delivers results that go far beyond financial value.

Find out how Discovery Health Partners can help strengthen your payment integrity initiatives. Contact us today.

Diane AkramiTrends that are re-shaping payment integrity strategies
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Six ways to help your remote workforce thrive

In the pre-coronavirus world, companies moving to a remote workforce could take months to develop and implement their plans. But the sudden onset of COVID-19 gave companies very little lead time to figure out how to set up and support employees to work from home. With no time for formal training, many organizations have been left wondering how they would help their employees stay motivated and productive in this new way of working. 

Discovery moved to a remote workforce model over a year ago and has gained a wealth of work-from-home expertise. Hoping to help other organizations thrive in this new remote world, we’re sharing some best practices based on what we learned.

1. Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Often attributed to management guru Peter Drucker, this adage reminds us that a company’s culture is often the glue that binds employees together and drives the desired behaviors throughout an organization. This holds true—and perhaps becomes even more important—when the “office” is virtual. Leveraging your organization’s culture will help employees feel more connected to each other and to the company. And it’ll create a virtuous cycle—the more you reinforce your culture, the stronger it’ll get. Is cross-functional team collaboration an important part of your culture? Use regular recurring meetings and communications—weekly emails from the CEO, monthly company meetings—to showcase how your teams are working collaboratively. 

2. Effective managers manage, wherever their employees are

Whether employees are in a physical office or working from home offices, effective managers are the ones who use the right combination of motivation, monitoring, and feedback to keep their teams productive and engaged. When faced with the need to manage their teams remotely, some managers may require more support than others. It can’t be overstated how important it is to invest in helping managers be effective—the ROI is huge. Tap into your highly-effective managers as resources to help build up other managers’ skills. Conduct regular meetings and trainings to reinforce best practices and develop management skills. When the pandemic hit, Discovery pivoted from monthly people manager meetings to weekly check-ins. This allows people managers to problem-solve the new COVID-19-related challenges their teams may be experiencing.

3. Make your expectations clear and water what you want to grow

Pandemic or no pandemic, a key to a company’s ability to reach its goals has always been setting clear expectations and ensuring that all employees understand those expectations. Clear expectations act as a connecting force throughout your team and organization, creating alignment so everyone is working together to make the right things happen. At Discovery, we’ve defined our expectations through our five Core Values—Trusted Quality, Reliable Results, Applied Innovation, Mindful Stewardship, and Profound Client Value. These values guide every single employee’s decisions and actions. 

Being clear with expectations must be coupled with holding ourselves and others accountable. Team and company leads need to proactively manage their processes in order to get the results they expect. Water what you want to grow—reinforce accountability, reward positive behaviors, celebrate employees who demonstrate their commitment to goals. When employees are remote, it’s critically important to do these things in a way that others can “see.” Discovery uses an online “Impressions” portal for giving and receiving kudos to employees who demonstrate behaviors consistent with our expectations. Everyone in the company can see who’s living our Core Values.

4. Trust…and verify

If you’ve clearly set expectations and are holding people accountable, then you’re well on your way to mastering this best practice. Being remote requires a good deal of trust that employees are managing their time effectively and concentrating on the right things. But you must also check in and check up. Make it a priority to connect with team members on a regular basis so they know you want to stay connected to what they’re working on. This also gives you an opportunity to ensure every team member has what they need to do their job effectively. Use a combination of instant messaging, video conferencing, email, phone, texts, or whatever works best for you and your team to be available and responsive when questions come up. Remember to also check in with employees frequently just to ask how it’s going.

5. Flexibility is free productivity…and free employee engagement

Flexibility is the secret sauce for helping remote employees stay productive. Nearly everyone’s daily life has been disrupted by social distancing, work furloughs, school closings, and other changes. Managers can help remote employees stay on task by working with them to establish schedules, processes, and timelines that balance individual needs with those of your team. Even a small accommodation like moving a meeting by 15 minutes can make a big difference. And remember, life at home still goes on even while employees are working. Learn to embrace those everyday interruptions!

6. Above all else, stay connected and communicate, communicate, communicate

Make sure your teams know what’s going on and have the information they need to do their jobs. People crave personal interaction, and working remotely can cause feelings of isolation and being cut off socially from coworkers. Carve out time during the day for your employees to connect with others. Take virtual coffee breaks or meet-up by video conference to brainstorm ideas, problem-solve, or just talk. You can even plan a virtual happy hour, virtual escape room, or other team events. It doesn’t have to be formal; be sure to lean on your employees for ideas. An unexpected benefit of working virtually is that co-workers are often more open and relaxed outside the office environment. Use this to your advantage and get to know each other on whole new level! 

COVID-19 has presented some unique challenges for organizations suddenly transforming to a remote workforce, and it may take some trial and error to find the right approaches to managing in this new environment. By focusing on the things that are important at all times—culture, effective management, clear expectations, flexibility, and communication—you and your remote workforce can indeed thrive!

Please stay safe and remember we’re all in this together! 

 

Share your work-from-home management tips with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Learn more about our response to COVID-19.

Philip GarrisonSix ways to help your remote workforce thrive
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Protecting payment integrity through client-centered support

Unexpected events like the COVID-19 pandemic make it increasingly difficult for health plans to manage costs and ensure payment integrity. We recently sat down with Monica Frederick, Vice President, Account Management for Discovery Health Partners, to discuss how Discovery’s people and account management approach contribute to our clients’ success.

You’re a newer member of the Discovery Account Management Team. Can you share your experience prior to Discovery?

Over the past 20 years, I’ve held numerous sales and business development positions to support healthcare organizations in bringing new patient care modalities to the market. My experience on the medical side gives me insight into how managed care organizations can strengthen their payment integrity efforts so they can better manage costs and continue to focus on member care.

What makes Discovery a successful team and what are we doing differently to support our clients’ success?

Discovery has built a solid reputation for providing value to health plans by helping to solve their payment integrity challenges. We owe our success to our exceptional people and culture of accountability. Every employee across the organization understands the importance of their role and how they contribute to our clients’ success. And I see the whole organization working tirelessly to anticipate customers’ needs and earn their trust.

Communication is a big part of our approach to account management at Discovery. We talk to clients frequently in person and virtually, and we also conduct client surveys to hear directly from our clients on how we’re doing and how we can continue to provide profound value to our clients’ organizations.

Through this hands-on approach, we’ve learned that we do many things right. Clients especially appreciate how we advise them to determine the best course of action for their operations and provide timely follow-up to address their concerns. This valuable feedback also helps us identify opportunities where we can improve our processes and solutions to better meet clients’ needs.

In addition, we have a Client Council that brings together individuals across our client base whose voices influence the future of our business. We host in-person and virtual meetings with our Client Council to deepen relationships and understand what clients need to be successful. These meetings not only provide clients with valuable networking opportunities, but also offers clients opportunities to share insights and best practices with other health plan leaders and drive future innovations.

What is Discovery’s approach to account management, and how do we drive value throughout the entire engagement with a client?

Our approach is flexible to meet each client’s unique needs, but it always starts with earning their trust, by getting to know them and understanding their business operations. We listen closely to their concerns and create a plan that addresses their challenges and aligns with their strategy and priorities.

When clients join Discovery, we put together an implementation team with the right skills and specific expertise to ensure a smooth, accurate, and efficient implementation. Our approach is flexible and can wrap around or come behind existing vendors and processes already in place. Discovery’s multi-disciplinary teams work collaboratively and our experts evaluate each client individually. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Once implementation is completed, an internal hand-off to the Account Management team occurs and all unique attributes and needs for each client are discussed in detail. A dedicated account manager takes the lead to provide guidance and manage day-to-day activities and communicate the status of ongoing projects every step of the way. We don’t just hand over reports; we take time to meet regularly with clients to review their information in a way that’s meaningful so we can make recommendations for improvements and achieve their desired results.

What are some of the ways Discovery helps health plans address unexpected payment integrity challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic?

COVID-19 is unlike any event the healthcare industry has seen in modern times, thus health plans are faced with challenges they could not have imagined just a few months ago. Not only do health plans need to ensure their members receive the care they need and support their providers, health plans must also keep up with individual states’ mandates regarding “non-essential” claims processes and review of COVID-19 related claims. At the same time, they are struggling with reallocating resources to support critical COVID-19 initiatives while managing the shift to a remote workforce.

Discovery is proactively reaching out to clients to make recommendations, based on their business, to help protect premium revenue, pick up productivity shortfalls as needed, and help them protect their workforce. We continue to work diligently on behalf of clients as an extension of their teams to ensure they get the right information to support the continuity of their operations.

Discovery went remote with payment integrity operations over a year ago, so we’re in a great position to help support our clients business during the pandemic. Discovery views challenges as an opportunity to learn from individual clients’ needs. As COVID-19 plays out, we will continue to partner with clients to make sure we are supporting them and their challenges are addressed in a timely manner.

 

Find out how Discovery Health Partners can help contribute to your payment integrity success in 2020. Contact us today!

Monica FrederickProtecting payment integrity through client-centered support
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How COVID-19 trends are impacting payment integrity

At the close of 2019, healthcare predictions echoed the challenges of years past: complex billing processes, changing regulations, and rising healthcare costs. It was no surprise that health plans would continue to tackle these long-standing issues that contribute to improper claims payments in 2020. Little did we know, though, that payers would find themselves facing these challenges in very unexpected ways amid a global pandemic.

Health plans, bracing for the full impact of COVID-19, will need to find ways to navigate the uncharted course―a course that is no longer focused primarily on cost efficiency, quality, and delivery standards. Rather, a new course is taking shape that centers on safety, performance, and demand.

Promoting safety and well-being

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, most states have issued shelter-in-place orders, requiring non-essential businesses and staff to work from home. Health plans are now faced with either remaining open as a critical operation or moving operations to newly established remote environments. For some plans, the transition from offices to mandatory work-from-home settings can present initial challenges (e.g., operational requirements, data security). As these challenges are addressed, payers are also working with their provider partners to increase access to care while protecting providers and the community. For example, the expansion of remote care and monitoring services help support social distancing and reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Facing financial performance impacts

The total number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, prompting healthcare associations to recommend the suspension of elective surgeries and procedures to maintain sufficient capacity to treat patients and minimize risks of exposure. As those types of claims decrease, we anticipate a spike of high-dollar inpatient claims to treat individuals affected by COVID-19. In fact, a recent analysis by S&P Global estimates a severe COVID-19 pandemic could cost U.S. health plans more than $90 billion in medical claims alone1. While several major health plans have recently pledged to waive costs associated with COVID-19 treatment, we can expect these costs will cause health plans to experience significant financial stress.

To offset these great costs, we recommend health plans with large Medicare populations to look to other areas to positively impact revenue. For example, Premium Restoration (the recovery and protection of premium revenue) is one way to maximize financial performance in 2020 while not disrupting COVID-19 initiatives.

Increasing demands on healthcare organizations

It’s no surprise that as COVID-19 cases continue to grow, so are claims for testing and treatment and, more importantly, high-dollar inpatient stays. To this end, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued new guidelines that lift restrictions and offer more flexible coverage options (e.g., tele-health). The American Medical Association (AMA) has also provided special coding advice to help healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 public health emergency. And in an effort to help ease the strain the pandemic is creating for healthcare providers, health plans are suspending reviews on COVID-19 related claims

With so many rapidly changing policies and requests, the regulatory burden is mounting for both health plans and providers alike. It will be more important than ever to make sure your plan has the correct member eligibility to avoid months of catch-up. Given these uncertain times, we highly recommend plans have a strong coordination of benefits (COB) program in place to ensure accurate and updated eligibility data while driving future cost avoidance.

Contact Discovery Health Partners today to find out how we can help you with your payment integrity efforts amid COVID-19.

Access the latest COVID-19 information from our COVID-19 response page.

Discovery Health PartnersHow COVID-19 trends are impacting payment integrity
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Jason Brown on the road ahead for payment integrity

As the industry transitions from volume to value-based healthcare, health plans face increasing pressure to better manage costs and ensure payment integrity. We recently sat down with Jason Brown, CEO of Discovery Health Partners, to get his thoughts on recent trends and how they’re shaping the road ahead in 2020.

Healthcare continues to change and evolve. What do you see as some of the trends setting the stage for optimizing payment integrity?

Health plans face a number of challenges when it comes to ensuring the right care is provided to the right member for the right amount. Complex billing processes, changing regulations, outdated and disparate data systems, and overlapping coverage all contribute to improperly paid claims. Today, nearly a third of claims are paid incorrectly, leading to billions in administrative waste.

In 2020 and beyond, we anticipate health plans will continue to struggle with rising healthcare costs, numerous competing priorities, and a lack of resources. Furthermore, changing regulations and mandates will continue to add layers of administrative and clinical complexity to a system already bogged down in paperwork. While there is no clear path to cost containment, there are ways health plans can work toward transforming their payment integrity approaches. An example is leveraging advanced technologies to move from retrospective payment to prospective payment—by detecting improper claims before they are paid, health plans can keep costs in check, increase member satisfaction, and most importantly, cultivate healthy provider partnerships.

What are some of the ways Discovery is helping health plans address their payment integrity challenges?

This past year has been an exciting time of innovation and growth for Discovery. We have an expanded suite of payment integrity solutions—Coordination of Benefits, Subrogation, Data Mining, Clinical Audits (in areas such as diagnosis-related group (DRG) audits and itemized bill review audits) and Premium Restoration. Our integrated solutions are designed to work together. This connected approach helps optimize claims recoveries and avoid future expenses across the entire claim lifecycle while reducing provider and member abrasion.

What makes Discovery unique is that our solutions start with our clients’ own data and processes. We leverage the latest analytical tools and technology like machine learning to identify patterns that present opportunities for cost recovery and cost savings. By blending artificial intelligence with human expertise, we identify hidden errors and root causes that are often overlooked. We also provide the highest levels of support to our clients, acting as an extension of their teams, to free up their internal resources so they can focus on other business priorities.

Since its inception, Discovery has been proud to provide flexible solutions that help health plans solve their payment integrity challenges. Our newly formed Client Council provides a platform for clients to share industry insights and challenges with their peers and help drive product innovations with Discovery. Going forward, custom-tailored solutions like ours will be key to helping plans manage costs while maintaining the high levels of care that their members expect.

What’s on the horizon for Discovery in 2020?

During the past decade, we’ve demonstrated measurable success by helping our clients improve operational efficiencies, increase claims accuracy and payment, and recover dollars back to their health plans.

From 2020 forward, we will continue to evolve existing solutions and create new forward-thinking approaches to help plans prevent and recover inaccurate payments. By expanding our use of data analytics and data integration and accelerating our investments in research and technology like machine learning and predictive analytics, we will help health plans capitalize on information to coordinate claims correctly. Once individual plans reach the point where they are paying the appropriate amount for the healthcare that’s delivered, they can re-invest in clinical care for their members.

At the same time, we will position clients to transition toward a more proactive approach to cost management. Reimagining the payments process and applying insights further upstream will be key to enabling providers to take advantage of opportunities to proactively change wasteful behaviors.

And of course, we’ll continue to keep our finger on the pulse of the industry. By building partnerships with our clients, industry organizations, agencies and others to learn about best practices and stay on top of the latest trends, we can prepare clients for the challenges ahead.

 

Find out how Discovery Health Partners can help strengthen your payment integrity initiatives in 2020. Contact us today!

Jason BrownJason Brown on the road ahead for payment integrity
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