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7 reasons for claims errors and how to avoid them

July 20, 2022 by Experian Health

The repercussions of errors on the healthcare claims processing workflow can be major and wide-ranging. It slows the revenue cycle, interrupts cash flow, consumes staff hours, creates frustration for staff and patients, and, in the worst cases, sacrifices revenue. Errors are a perennial—maybe even inevitable—problem but understanding some common reasons behind these mistakes can help. Additionally, digital claims management tools can help you automate claims processing to reduce claims errors, submit cleaner claims, and get paid successfully.

Any number of claim errors can lead to denials: incorrect medical coding, missing prior authorizations, clearinghouse issues and more. Here are 7 of the most common reasons for claim errors:

1. Missing and inaccurate data

“The number one denial issue most providers encounter is eligibility,” says Rob Stucker, Senior Vice President at Experian Health. “These issues begin upstream from the claims process during registration or pre-registration when the patient information that’s collected is either inaccurate or incomplete. It may be as simple as a patient giving their name as Rob instead of Robert, or the registration staff selecting Medicaid as the payer, instead of Medicaid Managed Care. If the eligibility information is even slightly off, the claim will come back as denied.”

Collecting accurate demographic and insurance information up-front using digital patient intake tools opens the digital front door and can help eliminate errors during the healthcare claims management process.

2. Manual processes and disparate systems

Wherever claims processes are not automated, human error and delays can set in. In addition to typical random glitches and mistakes, many healthcare providers struggle with disparate systems from multiple vendors, in which the front-end and back-end do not communicate seamlessly. Using a single vendor with solutions that manage the entire claims processing cycle can provide holistic help.

ClaimSource manages eligibility validation by repurposing Experian eligibility transactions that providers have already run at registration and editing them against the claim.  This process allows providers to double-check the eligibility of the claim before it gets submitted, at no additional cost. In addition, it also does extensive claim editing, submissions, reconciliations, and reporting. This solution creates prioritized workflows and provides access to a national library of documented government and commercial payer edits, as well as custom edits, to meet individual provider needs.

3. Changes in payer requirements

“Providers tell us that a major pain point is constantly changing payer rules,” says Stucker. “Providers are confident that their claims are good, but the payers’ adjudication rules may have changed without prior notice.” The problem here is exponential: voluminous changes multiplied by a range of communication channels (or faulty communication) multiplied again by a proliferation of payers and policies.

Keeping pace with these changes is difficult without partner support. “We continuously monitor hundreds of thousands of payer website pages each night for updates,” says Stucker. “When a change is flagged, an analyst looks at it and decides whether it should be added as an edit. We update our huge global library of edits on a weekly or even daily basis. These edits enable ClaimSource and our pre-837 editor, Claim Scrubber to automatically review claims for errors using the most recent payer updates.

4. Prior authorizations

Pre-authorizations present challenges at many levels. 8 in 10 providers saw prior authorization requirements increase during 2021. Providers must track changing requirements, obtain authorizations prior to treatment or claims submission, and complete claims that meet complex requirements.

When prior authorization requirements aren’t met, appealing a denial can be complicated at best, and many times prove to be irreversible. According to Medical Group Management Association data, a simple denial takes a seasoned biller two to eight minutes to work, but a complicated denial involving prior authorization requirements can take up to an hour to work, largely thanks to time spent on hold. Ensuring claims are completed as required in the first place using a pre-authorization tool, in combination with a claims editor that validates against pre-authorizations, saves valuable time and stress.

5. Short staffing and new trainees

Staff hours and expertise are both in short supply, as many providers struggle to retain experienced staff and bring new hires up to speed. Having an automated process with built-in review and analytics can help ensure that claims are completed accurately and quickly. A Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare study found automated claims take 25% less time to process than manual claims, boosting productivity and freeing staff up for the more human-intensive aspects of their work. However, the key is “accurate and user-friendly” automation.

A claims vendor should be keeping edits up to date, submitting claims timely and accurately to the correct payer, keep organizations informed on the claim’s status throughout the adjudication process, retrieve electronic remit files, link them to the correct claims, and establish a denial workflow to automatically show denials. This should all be done in an extremely easy to use user interface or directly back into Patient Accounting/Practice Management Systems. If vendors aren’t doing this, then staff will just be working harder instead of smarter.

6. Slow response and follow-through

Although delays themselves don’t necessarily cause errors, they can make resolution difficult and time-consuming. Time is always an issue for providers as claims must be submitted in specific time frames from the date of service. Therefore, getting the claim created, processed through a claims vendor and submitted to the correct payer must be done efficiently, or timely filing deadlines are missed.  The same is true for identifying and re-working denials. Denial backlogs quickly become overwhelming, increasing the odds of items slipping through the cracks or re-submission/appeal deadlines being missed.

Automating status updates with enhanced claim status monitoring can relieve time-strapped staff of having to contact payers manually for the latest information on claims to find out which ones are being paid or denied. Enhanced Claim Status submits automatic status requests based on each payer’s adjudication timeline from the date of claim submission, returning the payer’s proprietary responses weeks before the Electronic Remittance Advice or Explanation of Benefits are processed. This gives staff a huge head start on working denials.

7. Difficulty managing denials

When errors cause claims to be denied, a response is critical. A denials workflow management solution can optimize follow-up by identifying claim denials, holds, suspensions, zero-pays, and prioritizing denials that need the fastest attention. Denial Workflow Manager also allows organizations to track root causes, which in turn can identify operational changes that can be made upstream, and reduce the denials from happening to being with.

Automation is the future of effective claims management

Claims management is becoming more complex and demanding, but the digital tools that automate and improve processes can help providers rise to the occasion. It’s now possible to capture and use accurate data, integrate systems and processes to work together, stay up to date on payer requirements, track claim status, and even manage denials efficiently with the help of technology.

Learn more about other solutions that can help healthcare organizations with claims management.

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