Governance, Mission, Growth

Zotec’s Billing Services Catch On!
Hemmed-In Group Finds Seamless PACS Integration

Zotec’s Billing Services Catch On!

Want better billing practices and procedures? Talk to customers of Indianapolis-based Zotec Partners. The company recently announced several new installations of its proprietary medical billing services and licensed software. Over the past few months, the system has proliferated to Florida, Texas, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, and more. Jammia Shea, billing manager for Medical Center Radiologists (MCR), Norfolk, Va, attributes the platform’s popularity to its efficiency and ease of use.

“With the reduction of Medicare rates and more demand to go electronic from the insurance carriers, we felt we needed a new software solution,” said Shea. MCR began the implementation process in October of last year; before that, Shea recalled, “We had to use a clearinghouse for many of our items. With a third party involved, we were finding that the insurance carriers weren’t receiving a lot of our claims files. Zotec’s direct interface eliminates both lag time and the loss of files.”

Zotec says its new software for billing services was inspired by reduced reimbursements and demands for electronic records.

MCR selected the company’s Electronic Billing Center (EBC), which includes features like variance and denial follow-up, electronic remittance, revenue cycle management, dual entry coding, dual monitor payment posting, and more.

Making the transition from MCR’s old billing system to Zotec’s comprehensive service wasn’t always easy, Shea says, but it was worth it. “We had a few issues in the implementation process,” she noted. “We had a conversion process in place and some of the codes didn’t convert correctly. We had delays in the implementation date. That’s common for any implementation because you’re working with two separate systems. I’d definitely say they were responsive to any problems that came up.”

MCR elected to outsource all of their billing to Zotec, which has significantly expedited the process. “Because things are turned around so quickly, we’re able to generate reports, monitor progress, and then we can even do auditing,” Shea said.

She says these new capabilities have made her job infinitely less complicated. “The ability to perform electronic audits eliminates the manual task of reviewing,” she said. “And when problems arise, it’s much easier to identify them.” Today, the title “billing manager” means “liaison between Zotec, the hospital, and the physicians,” Shea said. “When an issue is identified, I handle it.”

So far, Shea hasn’t seen a decline in the number of issues that have arisen since implementing Zotec’s services, but she expects to in the near future. “It takes time to change your processes,” she said, “but they’ve been very responsive to the difficulties we’ve had.”

The EBC system generates detailed monthly reports designed to provide physicians and office managers with meaningful data. Shea cites this feature as her favorite. “For me, the reporting has been the most beneficial,” she said. “It tells the whole story in black and white.” EBC enables importing and exporting with Microsoft Access and Excel, and sends daily graphical updates via e-mail.

Ultimately, of course, the goal of outsourced billing is to bring in revenue more efficiently and reduce the cost of collections. “This quickly, it’s hard to see financial efficiencies,” Shea said, “but we’re very happy with the efficiency of the electronic processes.”

—Cat Vasko

Hemmed-In Group Finds Seamless PACS Integration

These days, physician-owned Metro Imaging, a diagnostic imaging services provider serving the greater St Louis area, is known for exclusively offering OnSite Results, handing over preliminary exam results to patients before they leave the office.

But before implementing its current PACS system from Milwaukee-based Merge Healthcare, Metro Imaging operated its five outpatient facilities under five different databases. Although solid in day-to-day tasks, its previous radiology management system offered limited reporting and no consolidated network.

“To do any type of management analysis, we had to visit each site, run reports, and try to consolidate,” said Christine M. Keefe, CPA, CMPE, Metro Imaging’s chief financial officer. “One site could not see another’s schedule, so we were unable to move patients to another site if they needed to be squeezed in, which has become an invaluable tool to us now.”

Furthermore, Metro Imaging’s seven full-time radiologists encountered difficulties in consulting each other, requiring films to be constantly shipped between sites. Without consolidated reporting, the business ran into staffing concerns. It was a challenge to decide when to add staff, Keefe continued. Moreover, if a staff member called in sick, another worker had to physically drive to the site to cover transcription.

“Our radiologists had seen other PACS systems at the hospitals, and they were adamant that any PACS system we installed must have good integration,” Keefe said. “They didn’t want to be slowed down by bouncing from one system to another.”

Keefe admitted that without a dedicated IT staff at the time, she was hesitant to install a “best of breed” system because the imaging center did not possess the in-house manpower or knowledge to manage such an installation. Nevertheless, in 2005, Metro Imaging purchased Merge’s PACS, following the center’s purchase of the Merge radiology practice management system 2 years prior. Calling the integration a seamless one, Keefe said the product has exceeded the radiologists’ expectations.

“The Merge system has an excellent, flexible workflow,” Keefe said. “We improved our workflow with the product, but didn’t have to totally revamp it. The product was flexible to work with, so we could meet our needs without spending excessive time and money for customization.”

Additionally, the system features excellent reporting, Keefe continued. As a result, it is easier to manage exams, staffing, and productivity, and workers could better identify workflow problems. Keefe said Merge enables the operations to fine-tune staffing needs, particularly in running reports on exam hours by technologist and comparing that to hours worked. Metro Imaging can evaluate its front-desk staffing needs by comparing the number of patients scheduled and the number of patients registered by staff.

Keefe points out that most importantly, the Merge system allows Metro Imaging to operate efficiently across its five sites, allowing the business to offer its OnSite Results. “In order to provide this high level of service, our radiologists must read in real time,” Keefe said. “This also means that if a radiologist is busy in a procedure, a radiologist at another site may need to help out and read his exams. Our PACS system, combined with digital dictation and good workflow of our RIS, allows this to operate seamlessly and provide this enhanced service.”

Because the system presented so many benefits, Metro Imaging’s staff and radiologists readily accepted the RIS/PACS. But while its actual implementation was not difficult, there were challenges in the up-front planning and decision-making, Keefe said. Management was concerned about the speed of the system, the types of data lines required, and the amount of storage space, among other issues. Without an in-house IT department, Metro Imaging relied on outside vendors of their modalities and Merge, which worked to allay any fears and make solid recommendations, Keefe said.

“Luckily, our modality vendors are standardized across our sites, so we had limited modality vendors to deal with and they were very helpful and accommodating,” she continued. “The whole ‘DICOM mystery’ was very anticlimactic. The integration was very smooth. As a result, we have a system that flows very well and our radiologists don’t complain about the time it takes to receive images.”

Metro Imaging, with its 74 employees, performs approximately 100,000 exams per year and offers MRI, CT, ultrasound, fluoroscopy, x-ray, and digital mammography. It installed Merge Mammo last year and plans to use Merge’s Practice Analysis Tool to evaluate its referral base, target its marketing efforts, and closely monitor trends.

—Elaine Sanchez