Considerations for centralizing payment accuracy

This is the first blog in our two-part series: “Payment Accuracy Gives CIOs an Opportunity to Self-Fund Transformation”

An interview with Matt Choffin, VP of Commercial Payment Integrity, Optum

Health plan CIOs balance efforts between “keeping the lights on” and evolving the digital ecosystem. Yet simple, early wins in payment accuracy can streamline operations and yield immediate savings.

This is the first of a two-part series on making the case for why payment accuracy is the ideal place for the CIO to lead a system-wide modernization effort. In this first article, Matt Choffin discusses how centralizing payment accuracy reduces costs and allows organizations to see their business holistically. Matt is VP of commercial payment integrity at Optum.

Q1: Why should the CIO consider payment accuracy as the critical starting point of plan modernization?

The claims payment system in the U.S. aggravates providers, payers and patients. Its inefficiency and system-wide errors waste resources, sow mistrust and inhibit the ability to transition to new payment models. Payers should focus on integrating legacy systems to create a cohesive, interoperable whole. They need to be able to automate accurate payment workflows regardless of the payment model. This does much more than reduce costs. It forces payer organizations to view their business more holistically. It also enables them to engage more positively with many different providers according to different terms and conditions.

Hear Matt Choffin’s perspective on the CIO’s role in creating an IT roadmap.


Driving payment accuracy up can produce immediate savings. It can save as much as 4% in medical costs and 10-20% in administrative expenses. This in itself funds the modernization journey — with little to no new capital investment. The increasing prevalence and cost of fraudulent and improper medical claims payments affects not just the cost of health care. It also stains the reputation of payers and their relationships with providers.

By considering payment accuracy as the first order of business, the payer organization is compelled to work across disparate functional teams. They move away from closed-loop, legacy systems to fuel analytics capable of detecting and preventing leakage. This exercise prepares the CIO and the organization to approach the business problem of payment accuracy more holistically. It produces a cultural shift for most health plans. The exercise itself is instructive across the organization and a precursor to additional modernization efforts.

PA Blog 1 Graphic A1, 2, 3

Hear why the CIO’s role as gatekeeper of data and analytics is critical to success.


Q2: What can a payer learn about modernization by shifting from short-term fixes to a long-term roadmap?

If the payer seeks to transform payment accuracy to a core capability, the key is to have one executive sponsor — which could be the CIO. That person’s goal is not to fulfill the discrete needs of each department in the value chain. Rather, it is to consolidate all activities under one office. The goal is to identify the metrics and measures of medical savings, administrative cost controls and highest value opportunities.

The controls and audit processes put in place to prevent leakage and improve payment accuracy have spread incrementally throughout and outside the payer organization over the years. This has created a deeply siloed and decentralized framework that leads to a high-cost, pay-and-chase model. The CIO has foresight into what a centralized program should look like from a technology standpoint. He or she can ensure that capital investments are maximized and that tools are used at their highest potential.

The CIO is at the table to create the IT roadmap for bringing the data together in the most efficient way possible. This enables successful, enterprise-wide payment accuracy and support for end-to-end analytics and reporting. The plan CIO is then freed from implementing one-off decisions. And he or she is able to work at a much higher level with the payment accuracy office to fulfill essential business priorities. For example, the best use of capital to reap as much value as possible.

Listen as Matt discusses the value in removing silos and engaging the entire C-Suite.


Q3: What are the first steps payers should take to move away from siloed payment accuracy systems?

The most successful transformations include assessing pre-payment and post-payment activities. Predictive scoring models help prioritize plan efforts.

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Incremental growth of automation tools across the organization has delayed creation of data-driven decision-making throughout the payment lifecycle. By assessing your current payment accuracy strategy, you can examine and evaluate all the people, processes and technologies involved. This includes cost avoidance during pre-adjudication and pre-payment through cost containment in post payment. You’ll identify opportunities to increase cost avoidance and decrease the need for cost containment efforts. Your organization should also assess its executive reporting and compare findings against benchmarks of mature payment accuracy models. Mature models use reporting to fuel ongoing improvements in avoidance and recovery tactics.

Q4: How is reporting evolving in payment accuracy?

When we do best-practice assessments, the first thing we ask to see is aggregated reporting. This helps us understand how much the plan is saving in a comprehensive, holistic sense. Most health plans are unable to provide a rollup score card to show where they stand across all payment accuracy functions.

The emerging direction for true payment accuracy is using data analytics and machine learning to identify errors in payments. Operationally, health plans can also identify high-value claim reviews they need to escalate in the workflow. These data-learning and reporting automations can substantially decrease the pay-and-chase model of recovery. They also increase value up front through medical and administrative cost savings.

Q5: If you could offer payers only one piece of advice, what would you say?

The financial opportunity of payment accuracy is significant, while the risk of maintaining a fragmented, bolt-on system will only continue to rise. It’s time for CIOs to make payment accuracy a core centralized function.

Resources:

Learn more about emerging trends and innovations in payment accuracy. Visit optum.com/PaymentIntegrity.

About the Author:

Pre-Sized-wf804592-thumbnail-choffinMatt Choffin
VP of Commercial Payment Integrity, Optum

Matt has 14 years of health care payment integrity consulting experience for commercial health plans, Medicaid, and Medicare. His primary focus has been in the areas of fraud, waste, abuse, overpayment recovery and coordination of benefits.

 

 

1Optum observed client experience.
2Optum observed client experience.
3Stern A. U.S. doctors say 1 in 5 insurance claims mishandled. Reuters; June 14, 2010.

 

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