Can EMR Eliminate Billing Services

The forum has been buzzing with questions about EMR, electronic medical records (also called EHR for electronic health records) and how it will affect medical billing services and the industry as a whole. Providers have been mandated to begin using EMR by 2014 and many are afraid that this mandate will not only affect medical billing services but make the need for medical billing services obsolete.

I understand why some are concerned about this. EMR companies are using any angle they can to make their product stand out above the others. Some are including billing software and telling the providers that their EMR software “does the billing too.” They also push the fact that the EMR and billing are “linked” to each other. They tell their prospects that they can save money by not hiring a billing service to take care of the billing but anyone who has done billing before knows this is just not true.

Personally I see EMR as a totally separate entity from the billing. Having billing software does not mean it is smarter for a provider to keep the billing in house. In fact, most providers who outsource their billing already have software capable of billing. The issue for most providers who choose to outsource is that they don’t have anyone in the office who can handle the billing, the claims tracking, the phone calls, the clearinghouse and electronic submissions and they recognize that the experience that they get from outsourcing their billing to a service is crucial to running their office efficiently. Many realize that they actually save money by outsourcing. Some have difficulty hiring, training and keeping a knowledgeable person in that position in their office. Very few decide to outsource strictly because they don’t have billing software. [Side note: There are many offices who do the billing in house very effectively. I’m not saying that all office would be better off outsourcing. I’m saying that EMR and having a billing software won’t change a practice from one who should outsource to one who doesn’t need to.]

Bottom line, no matter how good your billing software is, it is only as good as the person using it. A provider’s income relies on the billing. It is crucial that they have someone that understands billing and knows what they are doing. If they don’t they will lose money, no matter how good their software is and whether or not it’s tied in to their EMR.

I believe that the EMR companies will use whatever means they can to sell their product. I’m not saying that some of them don’t have a good billing software that does tie into their EMR software, and that it wouldn’t benefit some providers. It’s just that unfortunately some providers are thinking that with this new software suddenly their billing is going to become much better by just using it and they will no longer need to pay someone (whether in house or outsource) to do the billing for them. But (again in my opinion) the providers that do believe this and buy into the software only to dump their billing service have other issues anyway.

I don’t think that the EMR mandate is going to affect medical billing services all that much. Sure a few of us will lose an account or two, but they are accounts that would have been lost for some reason or another eventually anyway. Anyone who knows anything about billing knows that there is way more involved than just data entry and that a provider has a lot to lose by not having someone experienced in charge. There are definitely a lot of providers out there who understand this and can benefit greatly from outsourcing to keep this industry thriving for a long time.