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Readers Write: Address the Disruption in Provider Data Caused by Clinically Integrated Networks and Value-Based Care

October 31, 2016 Readers Write No Comments

Address the Disruption in Provider Data Caused by Clinically Integrated Networks and Value-Based Care
By Tom White

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Hospitals that became health systems and are now morphing into clinically integrated networks (CINs) are facing increasing struggles managing their expanding patchwork of providers. These include credentialed and referring physicians, APRNs, nurses, other licensed professionals. Their provider count has often grown by five to 10 times.

Not only are there more providers, but also they are working in a wider variety of outpatient care settings. This has been a boon for consumers, as there are now many new retail healthcare locations on neighborhood street corners, but this poses an increasing challenge from a provider data perspective. Who is providing the service? What is their affiliation in the ACOs, next gen ACOs, CINs, or narrow networks? Are they sanctioned?

These problems rise from the emergence of the retail healthcare economy. The resultant growth in provider data is creating obvious and not-so-obvious consequences caused by disruptions in the provider data management process, affecting the accuracy of the provider data.

Poor provider data management tends to hurt healthcare organizations much more than they realize, especially in the context of today’s emerging retail healthcare economy and value-based reimbursement market. For hospitals and providers to succeed in these circumstances it is imperative to drive out unnecessary costs, and outdated or inaccurate provider data is a hidden source of significant costs.

As hospitals and health systems develop new alliances, it is critical to know what providers are included in a CIN, including their roles and affiliations. Efforts to collaborate over large patient populations and control value-based payments require in-depth and proprietary knowledge of provider affiliations, practice scope, and their economic models. This information is mission critical for success. Using a system that manages provider data in these areas should be a business imperative for every health system executive.

Licensed healthcare provider data management programs have historically been managed by numerous, fragmented systems across the healthcare ecosystem. Many healthcare leaders believe that electronic medical records (EMR) systems and their health information exchange (HIE) modules, credentialing, and other modern back-office IT systems have made provider data more accurate, secure, and accessible. Perhaps this is so with patient data, but this is not the case with provider data. These enterprise IT systems provide numerous benefits and may even provide a repository for some provider data, but they are not inherently designed for ongoing management of this business-critical data.

Let’s think for a minute about some specific areas in which provider data plays a vital role. Do CINs know who their providers are? How do they take these new provider networks and build the tools for consumers and providers to search and find them? Simple natural language searching (think Google searches) is how the entire world except for healthcare works. Having accurate provider data who are in-network with modern search tools should be a goal for all health systems and CINs.

Accurate provider data is critical to ensure that provider search tools can be the foundation of a successful referral management program. Potential patients that visit the hospital website and search for a local, in-network doctor or a specialist expect that the information they are presented with is accurate and current. If not, a bad customer experience could mean the loss of a patient, a loss of trust, and perhaps worst of all, a bad online review by the patient.

Physicians who use these search tools to identify specialists they can refer their patients to is a critical aspect of referral management. The range of critical data that is relied upon now goes beyond simple contact information and insurance plan participation. It might include physician communication preferences, licensing data, internal system IDs, exclusionary lists, and other sensitive internal information. This information changes frequently, but users don’t have time to ponder these facts. Inaccurate information wastes time and hurts patient satisfaction.

Inaccurate provider data causes billing delays that hurt cash flow and increases days A/R. Invoices sent to the wrong location or faxed to the wrong office are common in healthcare. Never mind issues stemming from inaccurate or incomplete address information.

Beyond clinical and financial performance gains from having more accurate information on providers is that this data can then be used in consumer and physician outreach programs across the health systems, whether part of a CIN or ACO. Hospitals are businesses, too. Historically many of their patients may be admitted through the ED, but increasingly are referred by in-network physicians or come through another outpatient service. The hospital’s marketing department may want to reach out to a network of physicians within a 200-mile radius to encourage referring patients to their facilities or simply promote a new piece of equipment or innovative procedure that’s now available at their facility. The marketing department might do searches to find these physicians and contact them. Having accurate provider ensures that these efforts are productive and efficient.

A tool is required that makes it easy for the appropriate teams in the health system to curate and update their health system provider data to create a single source of truth. This should include all credentialed and referring providers from across the entire healthcare organization, including acute, post-acute, outpatient, and long-term care environments.

While health systems can develop data governance models that require all departments to verify the accuracy of their provider data and to specify how it should be shared, this is seldom a success. Most organizations don’t know exactly who is in their pool of licensed providers and historically there has not been an IT system that can provide this comprehensive capability.

Healthcare leaders have to take a proactive approach to provider data management and can no longer afford to deny the critical role this information plays in today’s increasingly complex and challenging healthcare system. In a fee-for-service world where practitioners are paid for whatever work they perform, it may not be as critical to have accurate provider data. But in today’s value-based care market, accurate provider data is critical for running an efficient, competitive, and profitable healthcare system.

Thomas White is CEO of Phynd Technologies of Dallas, TX.

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