Patients at Trinity Health have been accustomed to receiving two bills -- one for physician services at the clinic, another for services done at Trinity Hospital. That will change in October of 2010, when Trinity will add "Revenue Cycle" or billing and collecting components into eCARE, its electronic medical record system.
The charges a patient incurs from hospital and physician services will then be listed on one consolidated bill.
"We're going to convert in October of 2010," said Kathy Beeter, director of business services for Trinity Health. "We'll have an integrated bill that will include hospital and physician fees on one statement. It was separated until now, because physician billing and hospital billing are very different. There still aren't a lot of vendors that combine them."
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Kathy Marchand, financial counselor for Trinity’s business services, left, speaks with a patient on the phone while Kathy Beeter, director of business services, right, observes.
"This is a pilot project to merge the two bills together," she said.
Currently, Trinity Medical Group and Trinity Hospital utilize separate software systems for billing. The two software programs will be replaced by one program.
Trinity Business Services staff are in the beginning stages of the project, going through a software design phase process with Cerner, Trinity's eCARE electronic medical records software provider.
"In February, Cerner will be putting some of our design into their system," Beeter said. "Once it's built, we will go through several testing phases."
Beeter explained that testing will involve creating test patients, beginning with simple scenarios and working up to more complex ones.
Before the new system goes live, Trinity will be combing Trinity Medical Group business staff with Trinity Hospital business staff. The employees are currently undergoing cross training in physician and hospital billing.
"With the transition coming, we've been doing cross-training, and we're learning a lot about each other," Beeter said. "Usually, we didn't cross paths a lot. We didn't know each other's systems well."
"We've had several comments from Cerner on how well the staff is working together on this, and we're working hard on making that transition seamless," she added.
Beeter is confident that patients will appreciate having one combined bill and will find it to be more convenient.
"In the past, we've felt inadequate when patients come in, because we haven't been able to help them with the whole package," Beeter said. "We feel with the combined bill, we'll be able to help the patient as a whole, instead of it being separated."
When the new system goes into effect, patients will also notice that Trinity will no longer have family billing, or bills that have each member of a family's bills grouped together and sent to one responsible party in the family. Each patient will now receive their own bill addressed to them.
Advice for patients when looking at their bill
For patients looking at their bills, the first thing they should do is to compare their explanation of benefits from their insurance company with the services received on their bill, Beeter explained.
"Sometimes, they'll be charged for a service covered by their insurance, and they don't catch it and pay. Other times, it happens that their insurance might deny a claim because they believe it costs more than what is usual and customary," Beeter said.
"If a patient has that type of denial, we'll work with them," she added.
With the new system, Beeter said the bills will make it easier for patients to match up the services they received with their insurance explanation of benefits, because patients will be given more detail on their bill.
For patients with questions, Beeter said, business services will provide the help needed. For those who are having trouble paying, payment arrangements can be set up by financial counselors.
"We have financial counselors to help people through their self pay debt," Beeter said. "We don't call them collectors. That is a part of what we do, but the bigger part is helping people do whatever we need to do to help them pay their bill."