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Vendors line up for ANI show floor

The moving of the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s ANI conference from Nashville to Las Vegas due to flooding this year has given healthcare vendors ample opportunity to employ themes in the marketing of their products.

They could point out, for example, that healthcare providers are being flooded by federal regulations to reduce costs and improve quality, or that they could be inundated by the all-too-complex process of matching patients with funding to ensure that all bills are paid. As well, they could say chief financial officers are gambling with their provider’s dollars if they don’t improve the revenue cycle management process.

Regardless of the setting, providers this year will be faced with a full array of products, ranging from RAC and ICD-10 conversion solutions to supply chain management software to products designed to improve patient safety. In addition, they’re looking at new financial tools that will help capture costs and reimbursements in today’s episodic care-driven landscape.

“Meaningful use has hit the physician market,” said Jim Lacy, chief financial officer for ZirMed. “It’s real. It’s a real conversion that’s going to occur. There are a lot of issues that healthcare finance is going to have to deal with as technology” comes into play.

Bob DeLuca, a past president of the HFMA’s Philadelphia chapter who now works for IMA Consulting, said this year’s conference should shine the spotlight on electronic medical records – especially clinical documentation – as well as compliance and coding review solutions. The influx of federal incentives through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, along with requirements under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Recovery Audit Contractor program, will make providers take more interest in how their records are created, accessed and stored.

“It’s all about documentation now,” he said. “A lot of doctors will say, ‘I didn’t train to do this. I trained to save lives.’ As a result, it’s an after-thought in the industry. Clinical documentation and coding companies are overflowing with work, and hospitals are farming it out of the workplace.”

“One individual case can cost a hospital $10,000,” he added. “As hospitals’ bottom lines are eroding, they have to be concerned about this.”

Hospitals have other things to be worried about as well. Both DeLuca and Lacy see independent physicians running out of money and patience in this economy and aligning themselves with hospitals or healthcare networks just to stay afloat. Hospitals and health systems, therefore, are facing new pressures to manage these networks, and need revenue cycle management and health information exchange tools.

“Physicians are giving up and becoming hospital employees, and the hospitals are saying, ‘How do I manage them now?’” said Lacy.

Lacy also worried that IT vendors are focused too much on ARRA funding and not enough on the conversion from ICD-9 to ICD-10 – which he calls a “monumental shift” in the way hospitals bill and collect. DeLuca, meanwhile, sees a new focus on patient safety, and points out that medical mistakes cost the nation $40 billion and kill or cause further complications to hundreds of thousands each year.

“It gets captioned under quality and outcomes … but I think we’re just scratching the surface with what can and should be done,” he said.

The bottom line: Expect the exhibit hall at this year’s ANI conference to be just as active as the casinos nearby. And don’t expect to see the same thing from one booth to the next.

“It’s no longer just about getting paid,” Lacy said.

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