Q&A: What’s ahead for electronic prior authorizations in 2024?

Published: January 10, 2024 by Experian Health

QA What’s ahead for electronic prior authorizations in 2024

What’s weighing on providers’ minds as we head into 2024? According to a 2023 Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) survey, an overwhelming percentage of providers are wondering how to speed up prior authorizations. The answer: automation and electronic prior authorizations.

The 2023 MGMA Annual Regulatory Burden Report surveyed executives representing more than 350 group practices about the impact of federal policies and regulations. The MGMA is the nation’s largest association focused on the business of medical practice management. Respondents cited a growing volume of pre-authorizations as a key challenge, along with complex coding requirements, lengthy response times, and delays in treatment. Survey results showed that prior authorizations are a pervasive issue:

  • 89% of respondents called pre-authorizations either “very” or “extremely” burdensome.
  • 90% said the regulatory burden has grown in the past 12 months.
  • 92% had hired additional staff to deal with prior authorizations.
  • 97% said patients had experienced delays or denials due to pre-authorization requirements.
  • 97% said a reduced regulatory burden would allow resources to be reallocated toward patient care.

Neeraj Joshi, Director of Product Management at Experian Health, sees the issue as complex but solvable: “Providers have to get ahead of the constant changes in regulations and payer rules, while also overcoming the operational limitations inherent in manual processes and the industry’s ongoing staffing shortages,” he says.

Joshi shared his perspective on the state of pre-authorizations going into 2024—and what may be ahead as providers consider automation and new technologies surrounding electronic prior authorizations. Here’s where he sees the industry heading in the year to come.

Q1: What feedback have you received from providers about the challenges they face, and how is this feedback shaping the development of Experian Health’s solutions?

“The feedback from providers is clear: They highlight the challenges of managing an increasing volume of pre-authorizations, the complexity of payer rules, and the burdens of manual data entry,” says Joshi. “This feedback has been crucial in shaping Experian Health’s solutions, leading to the development of tools that automate the pre-authorization process and keep providers up-to-date with payer rules.”

Technology plays a key role in helping providers take on these challenges. Case in point: Experian Health’s online authorizations solution includes access to a complete payer database that stores and dynamically updates payer prior authorization requirements. Experian Health’s pre-authorization Knowledgebase works together with Authorizations software to reduce the manual workload. Automated inquiries work behind the scenes without intervention to maintain a high level of accuracy that improves efficiency, drives revenue, and protects profits.

“Features like the Knowledgebase and tools such as Medical Necessity, which automatically checks patient orders against payer rules, and Claims Scrubber, an automated solution that reviews and edits claims pre-submission, reduce the time and effort required to manage pre-authorizations and minimize the risk of errors,” says Joshi. “These tools address providers’ specific challenges around maintaining operational efficiency and optimizing the revenue cycle as they navigate a complicated pre-authorization landscape.”

Q2: Why are providers increasingly concerned about pre-authorizations now?

“A number of factors are contributing,” says Joshi. “Providers’ concerns about pre-authorizations have intensified due to the pandemic’s impact on healthcare operations, leading to rescheduled care and uncertainties around existing authorizations. Additionally, evolving and diverse payer rules, coupled with manual, labor-intensive processes, have exacerbated these challenges.”

Each of these concerns is significant by itself. Together, they create an even greater challenge to operational efficiency. “Providers are grappling with the need to adapt to these changes, often with reduced staff,” says Joshi. “This has increased the administrative burden and complexity of managing pre-authorizations. State-specific regulations, such as New York’s temporary suspension of prior authorizations, have added another layer of complexity, creating a landscape where providers must continuously adapt to both national and regional policy changes.”

Q3: How do regulatory changes impact the pre-authorization landscape, and how is Experian Health adapting to these changes?

“Regulatory changes, including state-specific mandates and evolving payer policies, significantly impact pre-authorizations by introducing new requirements and exceptions,” Joshi explains.

As of late 2023, 40 states have enacted prior authorization regulations, with the possibility of additional and amended regulations constantly looming. Additionally, the 2024 Medicare Advantage and Part D Final Rule will change pre-authorization requirements nationwide for patients with Medicare Advantage plans. Payer rules shift constantly—both in response to regulation and independent of it—creating a massive operational challenge for providers.

“These constant changes necessitate a dynamic response from healthcare providers,” says Joshi. Outdated manual processes simply aren’t up to the task, least of all when staffing is limited. “Experian Health helps providers adapt by continuously updating its platforms and solutions to align with the latest regulations and payer policies. This includes integrating real-time updates and automating the process of keeping track of changing requirements, thus ensuring that providers using Experian Health’s solutions are always working with the most current information.”

Q4: What other ways can electronic prior authorization tools help providers address current pre-authorizations challenges?

“Leveraging technology to streamline and automate the pre-authorization process is the core advantage,” Joshi says. Electronic prior authorization tools, powered by AI, represent a giant leap forward.  “Adopting solutions that reduce manual workloads, such as Experian Health’s Knowledgebase, and dynamic work queues that help operational teams work the exceptions and discrepancies, rather than spending their time handling every authorization transaction, can make complex processes manageable. Emphasizing back-end automation and keeping abreast of the latest payer policies are key strategies to manage increasing patient volumes effectively.

“Providers can also focus on implementing patient-facing digital tools to facilitate self-service,” Joshi continues. “A greater emphasis on self-service can reduce administrative burdens without sacrificing the patient experience.”

Q5: How do you see the future of patient care being impacted by electronic prior authorizations and other advancements?

The future of patient care is poised to be significantly impacted by these advancements,” Joshi says. “Streamlined and automated pre-authorizations can lead to reduced wait times for patients and more timely access to necessary treatments.”

Automating the pre-authorization process and introducing new technologies to deal with an ever-evolving, ever-expanding workflow may also help providers break a difficult cycle of overwork and understaffing. “As the administrative burden on healthcare providers decreases, more resources can be allocated to direct patient care,” Joshi maintains. “This shift will not only improve the efficiency of healthcare delivery but also enhance the overall patient experience, leading to better health outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.”

Learn more about how Experian Health can help your organization improve operational efficiency and drive revenue with electronic prior authorizations.

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