Every patient has had the experience of looking for a new doctor online — perhaps a neuro-ophthalmologist in one’s network, or maybe it’s a genuine emergency. Instead of getting a clear-cut view, the patient is faced with several conflicting pieces of information on where these practitioner are, or their title or affiliations. Less directly, but no less typically, a patient may have had a claim or prescription rejected in error because information on the given health provider wasn’t up to date or consistent.
Enter Provider Data Management, or PDM. This is the term given to the overall system of technologies, services and procedures that helps the healthcare system to keep track of providers — where they are, what networks they belong to, what their areas of specialty are, and when they have appointments available.
The reality is that provider data changes quickly, frequently, and in practically innumerable ways. This means that the opportunities for mistakes are practically limitless. In fact, provider data needs to be updated regularly and consistently in order to do what it was initially put in place to do: clearly inform the correct parties of the up-to-date status of any given practitioner.
Provider data management is a critical IT need for payers and others in the healthcare space. Effective management of all this provider data is in some ways the heartbeat of a strong heath plan, since it affects the accurate and timely payment of claims and has a direct impact on the payer’s relations and interactions with both providers and members.
The more agents and brokers know about PDM, the more they can help clients unravel health coverage knots.
But what constitutes effective management of provider data? Indeed, many payers, managed care organizations, and health plans find it difficult to execute PDM effectively. Here we’d like to describe what successful PDM might look like, considering not only the fundamental complexity of the industry but the rapid changes we’re seeing as companies within it merge, grow and change. All of this points to a need for an extremely detailed, involved and thoughtful approach — and possibly a bit of technological magic — to PDM, in order to reduce the instance of confusing, costly, and trust-reducing mistakes.
Here we offer several approaches that are essential to getting the management of provider data right. First, we’ll get an understanding of its complexity and possible pitfalls. Then we’ll offer three valuable techniques to address those pitfalls.
Understanding the Complexity of PDM
These core considerations for effective PDM underscore exactly how complicated successful execution of this foundation-laying business process can be:
1. Tracking Progress
A PDM strategy that only works most of the time isn’t good enough for what is a ubiquitous, essential need for payers. Therefore, it’s imperative to have full visibility into what progress is (or isn’t) being made. If a business can’t ensure that all necessary changes are made in a timely manner, or that staff have the time and resources they need to make those changes, the door is open to claim payment inaccuracies that will only get worse with time.
A reporting and tracking method that properly orders changes that need to be made according to their stage in the cycle helps to ensure transparency, and that effort is being expended where it is most needed.
2. Making changes effectively
Hundreds or thousands of changes to existing PDM data may be needed on a weekly basis, covering everything from updating information of existing providers to adding new ones and terminating others when necessary. Unless all changes are made accurately and without delay, claims payments may be delayed or made inaccurately; teams may need to manually adjudicate claims, meaning increased costs; payers may be slapped with fines or penalties; providers may get so disgruntled that they litigate; members could hear negative feedback from providers who are not getting paid timely and/or accurately, leading to further loss of trust in the system; and worst of all, members could fail to find the right doctor in time.
Another costly error resulting from not making changes immediately might be that providers who should have been terminated may continue to get claims processed and paid erroneously. It’s so important to have the right processes in place — otherwise, requests for information or clarification that are necessary before a provider data change can be made might become stuck in a loop between two or more internal departments, further increasing the cycle time to get the job done.