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I did a podcast recently about the lack of any content at the HBMA (Healthcare Billing Management Association) conference coming up concerning data and analytics. I now have some more information about why that’s the case. Again, I’m not trying to out anybody in particular.

Sharing my experience

What’s become clear is that there has been some content in the past. I’ve even delivered some of that content and some of that training. I recently spoke with somebody on the board of the HBMA Data Science Board or Data Science Committee and mentioned that there wasn’t anything like this on the agenda. 

An interesting conversation ensued, in which we talked about how it seems as though the receipt of that content, of those courses, of those sessions throughout the last few years was surprisingly not that good. And surprising, not to the deliverers of it. I mean, it was also incredible, I think, to the speakers. But I think, surprising to the Data Science Committee, surprising to HBMA in general.

Break it down

There was a whole series of follow-up conversations and trying to figure out what’s going on.We also wanted to know how it sounded. It also sounds like this is the broader theme. There isn’t much interest in getting in something as hardcore as actual data science, so even data wrangling, fundamental data, reporting, analytics in the billing community. That’s certainly reflected within the HBMA. That certainly seems to be reflected in the content delivered because they’ve determined that billing companies on the aggregate don’t want that. 

The ones already engaged in analytics are moving at their own pace and trying to make things happen. They’re involved in committees and projects and so on to do analyses. The ones that do not have any interest in it. So it doesn’t seem as though there’s a lot of appetite for that kind of content. That astounds me, given how much this is a data business. It is. It’s a process business, and it’s a data business. Those are basically what you have. It’s a data processing business.

What we discovered

That led to “Why?” Because there is this broad dichotomy between billing companies. Some billing companies are interested in data analytics, and the uptake is fantastic. When we talk with them, it’s engaging. They want answers. They’re frustrated with what they can get, but they want answers, they want to solve problems, they want data, they want to improve things.

And then, there’s this large group of billers, billing managers, billing companies. Again, I’m not throwing rocks at billing companies, in particular. I’m talking more about the billing industry because it doesn’t make a difference whether it’s a billing manager, practice manager, or billing company. It’s more the revenue cycle management industry, I believe. So many of them, when we talk about these things, the short answer is like, “Yeah, not interested. No, you don’t need that.” When I try to follow up and ask questions, like, “Oh, because you already have something like this?” The answer is basically, “No, we do great on our own. We’ve got great billers.” Yes, you can have great billers. That doesn’t preclude you from also having great analysis and solving problems.

Use the right systems

One owner of a billing company who is more sophisticated in data analytics, who is eager to get information to solve problems, analyze things, and make data-driven decisions, characterized a large percent of the industry as claim pushers. I think that’s right. 

I talked to organizations and asked them, “Okay, well, if you’re not doing something more systematic, where you’re pulling data and analyzing data and figuring out problems and being proactive, aren’t you just slogging away at individual claims?” And the answer was basically, “Yeah.” But they think that there’s no benefit to doing anything other than just slogging away. At what? At an endless stream of the same types of problems. I think that the characterization of claim pushers is accurate.

There are many claim pushers in the industry, and they think of themselves as data entry and submission people or entities or departments. That’s it. In addition, I think that’s sad. We need people. Also, we need good managers.

To summarize

Further, we need good billing companies, good billing departments. Again, I’m not throwing rocks at billing companies or anybody individually. There are great billing companies out there that are focused on solving problems and using data and analysis to make things better for their clients and themselves. We need more of that in this industry. We don’t need more claim pushers.